Oral health of children

This section provides the latest information about oral health of children living in fluoridated and non-fluoridated areas in New Zealand. Fluoride in drinking-water helps to prevent and reduce tooth decay.

Two measures of children's oral health are:

  • percentage of children who are caries-free
  • the lifetime experience of dental decay - measured as the number of decayed, missing or filled teeth, in primary teeth (dmft) or permanent teeth (DMFT).

On this page:

Children in fluoridated areas generally have better oral health
Oral health status differs by region
Oral health continues to improve

Children in fluoridated areas generally have better oral health

Children living in communities with fluoridated drinking-water generally had better oral health than children living in non-fluoridated communities.

In 2016, around 60 percent of 5-year-olds were caries-free in their primary teeth. Rates were similar in fluoridated communities (60 percent) and non-fluoridated communities (60 percent) (Figure 1).

More Māori and Pacific Island 5-year-olds were caries-free in fluoridated communities than in non-fluoridated communities in 2016. The largest difference can be seen for Māori children.

5-year-olds had on average 1.8 decayed, missing or filled primary teeth in 2016. Children living in fluoridated communities had less decayed, missing or filled teeth than children living in non-fluoridated communities (Figure 2).

This difference is particular large for Māori children. 5-year old Māori children had on average 2.5 decayed, missing or filled teeth in fluoridated communities compared to 3.3 decayed, missing or filled teeth in non-fluoridated communities in 2016.

Figure 1

Figure 2

Children in Year 8 (12–13-year-olds) were more likely to be caries-free in their permanent teeth if they lived in fluoridated communities (64 percent) than in non-fluoridated communities (61 percent) (Figure 3). This difference was particularly seen for Māori children.

Children in Year 8 had on average 0.9 decayed, missing or filled teeth in 2016 (Figure 4). 12-13-year old children living in fluoridated communities had in general less decayed, missing or filled teeth than children living in non-fluoridated communities.

Figure 3

Figure 4

Oral health status differs by region

In 2016, Southern and Waikato District Health Boards had the highest percentages of caries-free 5-year-olds and Year 8 children. Around 70 percent of children were caries-free in Southern DHB. While appproximatetly 72% were caries free in Waikato DHB. 

In general, children in the South Island were more likely to be caries-free than children in the North Island (Figure 5 and Figure 6).

Figure 5: Percentage of 5-year old children that are caries-free, by District Health Board (DHB), in 2016 (click on a DHB for mean dmft and caries-free percentages)

Figure 6: Percentage of children in Year 8 that are caries-free, by District Health Board (DHB), in 2016 (click on a DHB for mean DMFT and caries-free percentages)

Oral Health continues to improve

Between 2000 and 2016, the percentage of children that were caries-free increased. Improvements can be seen in non-fluoridated as well as fluoridated communities.

The percentage of children in Year 8 that were caries-free increased from 42 percent in 2000 to 63 percent in 2016. In the same time frame, the percentage of 5-year old children that are caries-free increased from 52 percent to 60 percent.

Between 2000 and 2016, the mean number of decayed, missing or filled permanent teeth of children in Year 8 dropped from 1.6 to 0.9 teeth. The mean number of decayed, missing or filled primary teeth of 5-year old children increased between 2000 and 2007, from 1.8 to 2.3 teeth. However, the number has decreased since 2008 and is now at the same level as 2000 (dmft of 1.8)

In general, children that live in communities with access to fluoridated drinking-water had a lower mean number of decayed, missing or filled teeth.

In New Zealand, the community oral health service collects oral health data for 5-year-old children and children in Year 8 (12–13-year-olds) [1].

For more data, go to the  Ministry of Health 's oral health data and stats webpage

References

  1. Ministry of Health. (2018). Oral health data and stats 2016. URL: http://www.health.govt.nz/nz-health-statistics/health-statistics-and-data-sets/oral-health-data-and-stats/age-5-and-year-8-oral-health-data-community-oral-health-service (accessed March 2018).