“By creating we think, by living we learn” Patrick Geddes
Black bar
DHSRU top bit
 College of Medicine, Dentistry, & Nursing »
 Dental Health Services Research Unit »

Reports and abstracts of articles originally published in Community Dental Health

Published in: Community Dental Health volume 17 March 2000

BASCD Survey report

The dental caries experience of 14-year-old children in the United Kingdom 1998/1999.

Surveys coordinated by the British Association for the Study of Community Dentistry in 1998/1999

N.B. Pitts,1 D.J. Evans2 and Z.J. Nugent1

1Dental Health Services Research Unit, University of Dundee;
2Newcastle and North Tyneside Health Authority, Newcastle-Upon Tyne


This paper sets out the results of the most recent series of surveys, of 14-year-olds, conducted within the National Health Services (NHS) under the auspices of the British Association for the Study of Community Dentistry (BASCD) Dental Epidemiology Programme during 1998/99. The programme seeks to monitor the dental health of children and contributes to the national monitoring of service provision and targets, while providing data locally to aid in service planning and evaluation of Oral Health Strategies.


The agreed BASCD criteria (Pitts et al., 1997) and conventions set out in the BASCD trainer's pack (Mitropoulos et al.,1992) were employed. Within each part of the United Kingdom (UK) and within each English "region", a designated NHS epidemiology coordinator was responsible for the local delivery of the programme, assisted by a "regional" trainer who attends the biennial national training and calibration exercise. Representative samples were drawn from participating health authorities and boards according to the agreed BASCD guidelines (Pine et al , 1997). Results for this survey are reported according to the current NHS organisational boundaries.

Dental caries was diagnosed at the caries into dentine (D3) threshold using a visual method without radiography, fibre-optic transillumination, or compressed air. As the D3 diagnostic threshold excludes all enamel and precavitation lesions, it will produce lower estimates of caries experience than are found in situations when enamel lesions can also be scored, using the D1 threshold (Pitts and Fyffe, 1988), or when diagnostic aids are used. The results in the abstract and tables therefore use the D3MFT nomenclature but, for brevity, DMFT has been used in the text.


A total of 121,550 fourteen-year-old children from across the United Kingdom (UK), the Isle of Man and Jersey were examined, some 5% less than in the 1994/95 UK survey (Pitts & Evans, 1996). On average this represents 19 per cent of the total population of this age group, although in the different areas there was a wide range in the size of samples chosen according to local needs and practices. Table 1 shows total populations and samples, results for DMFT and its components, sealed teeth, the percentage of and mean disease experience for children with DMFT > 0 and DT > 0, and values for care index percentage (FT/DMFT x 100) for every participating Health District or Board, and for the current Regional Offices (of the National Health Service in England) and countries.

The results demonstrated a wide variation in prevalence across the UK, with mean values for DMFT for regions and countries ranging from 1.17 in West Midlands to 3.65 in Northern Ireland (NI). The mean value for DMFT across the United Kingdom was 1.76 (DT=0.59, MT=0.15, FT=1.02). The variation in mean disease levels within regions and countries was also marked.

Overall, the extremes for District/Board mean DMFT values ranged between 0.74 for East Kent and 4.52 for Western Health Board NI. The corresponding values for DT ranged from 0.10 in Worcestershire to 1.87 for Highland Health Board, while for MT they ranged from 0.02 in Bromley, Dorset and East & North Hertfordshire to 0.81 for North and East Devon. Although a mean of 54 per cent of 14-year-old children in the UK had evidence of dentinal caries experience (DMFT> 0), the regional / country means ranged between 43 per cent (South - East) and 78 per cent (Northern Ireland). The (UK) mean DMFT for those with disease at the dentinal threshold was nearly double the overall mean at 3.24.

The overall number of filled teeth remains low (UK mean FT=1.02) and low proportions of restored dentinal caries were seen in areas with higher or lower disease levels. The UK mean care index was 58 per cent with a regional/country range from 52-65 per cent. In individual Districts and Boards the range of care index was from 34 per cent in North and East Devon to 83 per cent in Bromley.

The geographical variation of caries experience is highlighted in map form in Figure 1. The lower levels of mean caries prevalence (DMFT < 1.5) were mainly in the south, the west, and the midlands, whilst the rest of England, Wales, and Jersey had mean DMFT levels between 1.5 and 2.25. Higher levels were seen in areas Isle of Man, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Figure 2 presents the mean DMFT information as a bar chart; this shows an overall ranking of the regions and countries including the 95 per cent confidence intervals. The bar chart reveals that the UK can be seen as comprising three broad groupings, the 6 "southern" areas with mean DMFT values less than 1.5, Wales and the two more northerly English areas (together with Jersey) with intermediate mean DMFT and Isle of Man, Scotland and Northern Ireland with higher mean values of DMFT.

Figure 3 shows a comparison of the mean DMFT results (and components) from 1998/99 with those from the 1994/95 surveys using the original NHS boundaries in place in 1998/99.


Although there is an increasing focus on local and regional variations in dental health, the bar chart in Figure 2 should not be seen, or used, as a simple league table; as small differences between means which do not exceed the 95 per cent confidence intervals should not be given undue weight and intra-regional variation is considerable. These 1998/99 results can be compared with those of earlier BASCD coordinated surveys of 14-year-olds conducted in 1994/95 (Pitts and Evans, 1996) and 1990/91 (Pitts and Palmer 1994).

Trends over time demonstrate an improvement of 10 per cent in overall DMFT for Great Britain since 1994/95, compared to the 21 per cent seen over the previous four year period.

The care index (FT/DMFT x 100%) reflects the restorative care received by those who have suffered disease, it therefore has to be viewed in conjunction with DMFT. These results are of interest in studying the provision of dental services to this age group. The data in Table 1 shows the wide variations in the care index. The overall level is disturbingly low with just 58 per cent of the dentinal caries in permanent teeth being restored across the UK. This is very similar to the figure of 60 per cent found in the teeth of UK 14 year-old children in 1994/95 (Pitts and Evans, 1996).

There is marked variation in the percentage of children with at least one pit and fissure sealant, with a tendency for low use in low caries areas. The mean percentage values of England (29) and Wales (29) were below those seen for Scotland (56) and Northern Ireland (51).

Taken overall, an apparent slow down in improvements combined with static levels in the mean numbers of Missing teeth, these findings demonstrate the continuing need for more effective preventive strategies and treatment services for this important age group. As the condition of the permanent teeth at age 14 years will, to a large extent, determine the future dental health of emerging population cohorts of young adults, there is thus a continuing need for the monitoring of trends at both local and national levels. This is also required to establish whether previous Oral Health Strategy targets can be met.


The authors are indebted to all of the very large number of people who contribute to the BASCD coordinated NHS Dental Epidemiology Programme. Particular thanks are due to, Dr Cynthia Pine and Mr Phillip Jenkins (BASCD R&D Associates), to the regional NHS Epidemiology Coordinators and Trainers, and to staff of the Dental Health Services Research Unit for their help. Professor Pitts and Dr Nugent acknowledge support from the Chief Scientist Office of the Scottish Executive Health Department. The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Executive or UK Health Departments.


Mitropoulos, C., Pitts, N.B. and Deery, C. (1992): British Association for the Study of Community Dentistry BASCD trainer's Pack for caries prevalence studies 1992/93. Dundee: University of Dundee.

Pine, C., Pitts, N.B., and Nugent, Z.J. (1997): British Association for the study of Community Dentistry (BASCD) guidance on sampling for surveys of child dental health. A BASCD coordinated dental epidemiology programme quality standard. Community Dental Health 14, (Suppl 1): 10-17.

Pitts, N.B. and Evans, D.J. (1996): The dental caries experience of 14-year-old children in the United Kingdom. Surveys coordinated by the British Association for the Study of Community Dentistry in 1994/1995. Community Dental Health 13:, 51-58.

Pitts, N.B., Evans, D.J., and Pine, C. (1997): British Association for the study of Community Dentistry (BASCD) diagnostic criteria for caries prevalence surveys - 1996/1997. Community Dental Health 14, (Suppl 1) 6-9.

Pitts, N.B. and Fyffe H.E. (1988): The effect of varying diagnostic thresholds upon clinical caries data for a low prevalence group. J Dental Research 67: 592-96.

Pitts, N.B. and Palmer, J. (1994): The dental caries experience of 5-, 12-, and 14- year-old children in Great Britain. Surveys coordinated by the British Association for the Study of Community Dentistry in 1991/1992, 1992/1993, and 1990/1991. Community Dental Health 11: 42-52.


Figure 1 Dental caries experience (D3MFT) of 14-year-old children in the United Kingdom. BASCD coordinated NHS Dental Epidemiology Programme survey of 14-year-old children - 1998/1999.
Figure 1

Figure 2 Dental caries experience (D3MFT and 95% confidence intervals) of 14-year-old children in the current English regional offices, Scotland, Wales, the Isle of Man, and Northern Ireland, BASCD coordinated NHS Dental Epidemiology Programme survey of 14-year-old children - 1998/1999.
Figure 2

Figure 3 Comparison of Dental caries experience (D3MFT and components) of 14-year-old children in the previous English Regional offices, Scotland, and Wales in 1998/1999 and 1994/1995, BASCD coordinated NHS Dental Epidemiology Programme surveys of 14-year-old children.
Figure 3
Contact Us | A to Z Index | Search the University | Site Map
Maintained by: Staff at DHSRU Disclaimer| Privacy | Valid XHTML1.0