Section 1 - Introduction to paediatric caries / 1.1 Article: Epidemiology

Introduction to the epidemiology of paediatric caries.

Dental caries is the commonest disease in humans. In deciduous teeth, untreated dental caries affects over 621 million children worldwide [1].

In the UK paediatric caries remains prevalent amongst all age groups. In Wales, 34.2% of 5-year-old children have signs of decay, and in England this figure is 23% [2,3]. In Scotland, 30.6% of children aged 4-5 years have obvious decay in their primary dentition [4].

Caries in children follows a strong social gradient (figure 1). In the UK, children from low socio-economic groups can be up to twice as likely to have dental caries as those from higher groups [3]. However, the total burden of disease has come down in recent years and the social gradient is no longer widening.

Figure 1: Prevalence of experience of dental decay in 5-year olds in England, 2019 by national index of multiple deprivation. Reproduced from: National Dental Epidemiology Programme for England: oral health survey of 5-year-olds 2019 [3]

Dental caries is a common cause of hospital admission in children for tooth extraction under general anaesthetic. Left untreated, dental caries can cause pain, sepsis and has been linked to poor school performance [5].


[1] Kassebaum NJ, Bernabé E, Dahiya M, Bhandari B, Murray CJ, Marcenes W. Global burden of untreated caries: a systematic review and metaregression. J Dent Res. 2015 May;94(5):650-8. doi: 10.1177/0022034515573272. Epub 2015 Mar 4. PMID: 25740856.

[2] Morgan M, Monaghan N. Picture of Oral Health 2018. Dental caries in 5-year olds 2015/6. Welsh Oral Health Information Unit: Cardiff University, 2017.

[3]UK. 2020. Oral Health Survey Of 5-Year-Old Children 2019.A report on the variations in prevalence and severity of dental decay. Accessed Oct 2021: https://assets.publishing.serv...

[4] Information Services Division, NHS National Services Scotland. Report of the 2016 Detailed National Dental Inspection Programme of Primary 1 children and the Basic Inspection of Primary 1 and Primary 7 children.

[5] Blumenshine SL, Vann WF Jr, Gizlice Z, Lee JY. Children's school performance: impact of general and oral health. J Public Health Dent. 2008 Spring;68(2):82-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1752-7325.2007.00062.x. PMID: 18221320.