A “slight improvement” in the dental health of young school pupils has been recorded in a new report.
Figures for the school year 2013/14 show that 68% of primary one (P1) children have no obvious tooth decay.
This is compared with 67% in 2011/12 and 54% in 2005/06.
But the report’s authors also found that “clear health inequalities persist” and said reducing such inequality “must remain a priority” when it comes to dental health.
The findings were contained in the latest report from the National Dental Inspection Programme (NDIP), which is carried out annually on behalf of NHS boards.
This year’s detailed analysis looked specifically at P1 children, with more than 16,000 children, or 29% of the P1 population, inspected.
In summary, it found there was “a slight improvement in the oral health of P1 children in Scotland since 2012, with 68% having no obvious decay experience in 2014”.
The report continued: “The mean number of teeth that were decayed, missing or filled continues to decline. In 2014, the mean number of teeth affected by obvious decay experience fell to 1.27.
“The percentage of P1 children with no obvious decay experience now ranges from 65% to 81% across all NHS Boards in Scotland in 2014.”
The report also looked at whether there is a link between deprivation and poor dental health in young school pupils.
It found that “socio-economic inequalities in the oral health of P1 children remain”, with the percentages with no obvious decay ranging from 53% for children in the most deprived group to 83% in the least deprived group.
The difference between the two categories has remained at about 30% over the past four reports, researchers noted. The national target for 60% of children to have no obvious decay has still not been met in the most deprived group, the paper said.
The report concluded: “The findings of the detailed inspection of P1 children in the school year 2013/14 show some improvements in oral health in terms of both a slight increase in the proportion with no obvious decay experience and a decrease in mean number of decayed, filled or missing teeth.
“However, clear health inequalities persist and reducing dental health inequality must remain a priority.”
The Scottish Government praised the overall figures and said the biggest improvement in dental health was in the most deprived areas.
Public health minister Michael Matheson said: “It is tremendous news that dental health continues to improve among children in Scotland.
“This report shows that 68% of all children of primary one age have no visible sign of tooth decay whatsoever. It also tells us that the number of decayed teeth continues to fall.
“It is encouraging that the biggest improvement in dental health was seen in the most deprived communities, demonstrating that health inequalities continue to fall in this area.
“We are continuing to pursue policies that will further contribute to the narrowing of this gap.”