Oral health of children

This section provides information about children's oral health in Aotearoa New Zealand. However, this indicator has been put on hold until further notice due to data quality issues. Please see oral health perspective below for further information.

Two measures of children's oral health are:

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

Missing data impedes the surveillance of child oral health

Our report investigates the effect of limited and uneven coverage of community oral health services on the quality of child oral health data they report, particularly regarding the contrast between groups of children with and without access to fluoridated water.

Our findings suggest that owing to unequal provision of dental services (particularly in the Auckland region) and uneven geographic distribution of the sample population, the national statistics concerning child oral health published by community oral health services do not accurately portray the oral health status of fluoridated and non-fluoridated areas in New Zealand and cannot be used in decision-making or policy development.

You can read EHINZ's 'perspective' report on oral health here.


Surveillance Reports and Metadata

Surveillance Report: Oral health of children (May 2024) Download report PDF
Metadata: Oral health of children Download report PDF

About oral health in children

Good oral health in children has major benefits as it prevents pain, infection and oral diseases such as dental caries (tooth decay). Children are at risk of dental caries as soon as their primary teeth ('baby teeth') begin to break through the gum at about the age of six months (Ministry of Health 2010). Tooth decay is the most common disease and is also one of the leading reasons for preventable hospital stays among children in New Zealand (Ministry of Health 2015).

Data for this indicator

This Surveillance report presents information on data collected for five-year-old children and children in school-year eight examined by community oral health services.

Data includes:

  • The mean number of decayed, missing and filled primary teeth (dmft) for five-year-old children and the mean number of decayed, missing or filled permanent teeth (DMFT) for children in school-year eight.
  • The percentage of caries-free children. That is, those who have no past or current experience of dental decay.

The total number of five-year-old children seen by oral health services declined by 19.2% (around 9,500 children) between 2000-2019, while the number of children in school-year eight seen rose by around 3,500. Each group was initially of roughly equal size at 49,000 and 47,000 children (respectively) in the year 2000. It is possible that the reduction in the number of five-year-olds could affect the apparent trends in their oral health over time.

For more data, visit the Ministry of Health 's oral health data and stats webpage.  

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