NEARLY a third of children starting primary school in Herefordshire have had tooth decay, figures show.

The British Dental Association warned that “grotesque” health inequalities among children in different areas of the country are set to widen.

A Public Health England survey of 518 five-year-olds in Herefordshire found tooth decay in 32 per cent of children in the 2018-19 academic year. Herefordshire’s rate in 2018-19 was higher than that across the rest of the West Midlands, with 23 per cent of five-year-olds in the region experiencing tooth decay – either present at the time of the dental exam, or evident because of missing or filled teeth.

Nationally, 18,400 five-year-olds (23 per cent) had tooth decay, and more than 1,700 children had teeth extracted. Amid the Covid-19 outbreak, NHS England has urged dental practices to stop routine, non-urgent care, meaning check-ups will be missed.

Mick Armstrong, of the British Dental Association, said it means “grotesque inequalities” among children look set to widen, and there should not be a gap between wealthier and more deprived communities.

In a report, Public Health England said dental decay among young children “remains an important public health issue.”

“It leads to pain and distress, sleepless nights for children and parents, and time off school and work.

“Dental decay is largely a preventable disease. Further work to improve oral health and reduce inequalities is needed as nearly a quarter of five-year-olds had experience of dental decay, and the inequalities gap remains unacceptably high.” the report said.