Absence of tooth decay in 5 year olds
Last updated 10 January 2018 - see all updates
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1. Main facts and figures
around three-quarters of 5 year olds had no obvious tooth decay in 2014/15
5 year olds from the Black and White ethnic groups were least likely to have obvious tooth decay
5 year olds from the Chinese, Asian, and Other ethnic groups were most likely to have obvious tooth decay
The ethnic categories used in this data
The oral health survey uses the following broad ethnic groups:
There’s an additional category for pupils whose ethnic group wasn’t known or recorded.
2. Absence of tooth decay in 5 year olds
Summary of Absence of tooth decay in 5 year olds Absence of tooth decay in 5 year olds Summary
The survey sample consisted of children from mainstream, state-funded schools who were aged 5 years at the time of the survey. Examinations were conducted during the 2014/15 academic year using visual-only methods to detect signs of obvious tooth decay. More information about the survey sampling and methodology (PDF opens in a new window or tab).
The parents of children selected for the sample were asked to give consent. Nearly 3 in 10 parents (28.9%) didn’t respond, which was the main reason why children didn’t take part. A small percentage of parents (4.5%) refused consent, while 3.8% of children with consent were not at school at the time of the survey. A very small percentage (0.5%) of children with consent declined to take part on the day.
Surveys collect information from a random sample of the target population to make generalisations (reach 'findings’) about everyone within that population.
For those findings to be reliable, the sample of people should ideally contain the same mix of age, gender and regional location as the target population.
Where this isn’t the case (because some people haven’t responded, for example) analysts use statistical tools to ‘weight’ the data. Weighting rebalances the survey responses so they represent the target population more accurately. They can then be used to reach meaningful conclusions.
Population weighting was used to calculate percentages of 5 year olds with no obvious tooth decay at local authority and national level. Deprivation scores were used to weight the sample data to more closely match the distribution of deprivation in 5 bands across the country. More information from the Dental Public Health Intelligence Programme.
Confidence intervals for each ethnic group are available in Download the data.
The oral health survey is based on a sample of 5 year olds in school, rather than all 5 year olds in England. This measure makes reliable estimates of the percentage of 5 year olds in England who had no obvious tooth decay, but it’s impossible to be 100% certain of the exact percentage.
Based on the oral health survey results, it’s estimated that 78.1% of White 5 year olds in mainstream schools in England have no tooth decay.
It’s 95% certain, however, that somewhere between 77.8% and 78.3% of all 5 year olds in mainstream schools in England had no obvious tooth decay. In statistical terms, this is a 95% confidence interval. This means that if 100 random samples were taken, then 95 times out of 100 the estimate would fall in this range (that is, between the upper and lower confidence interval). But 5 times out of 100 it would fall outside this range.
The smaller the survey sample, the more uncertain the estimate and the wider the confidence interval. For example, fewer 5 year olds from the Chinese ethnic group responded to the survey than those from other ethnic groups, so we can be less certain about the estimate for the smaller group. This greater uncertainty is expressed by a wider confidence interval, for example of between 44.5% and 52.9% for 5 year old children of Chinese ethnicity with no obvious tooth decay in 2014/15.
Statistically significant findings have been determined where the 95% confidence intervals of an ethnic group do not overlap with the value for all ethnicities combined (75.2%).
Percentages are rounded to 1 decimal place.
Further technical information
The collection of ethnicity data was made compulsory in the 2015 survey and has resulted in 97.0% of the sample being allocated an ethnicity code.
Find further guidance and descriptions of ethnic groupings at the National Archive page on the ethnicity data standard.
4. Data sources
Public Health England
Every 2 years
Type of data
Type of statistic
Public Health England
Every 2 years
Purpose of data source
The aim of the survey is to measure how common and severe tooth decay is among 5 year olds. This can help local authorities prioritise oral health initiatives to help reduce tooth decay.
5. Download the data
This file contains the following: ethnicity, value, denominator, numerator, confidence intervals