A COUNCILLOR has called for action over figures that show a quarter of Forest under fives already suffer tooth decay, with a warning that the figure is likely to get worse.

Lydney district and county councillor Alan Preest told health chiefs the figures were “devastating” and set to be even higher when a new survey is carried out next year.

The most recent figures for the district were surveyed prior to Covid.

And it is feared that data due to be compiled in 2023 will be even worse due to the lack of access to dentistry during the pandemic.

The Forest has the worst figures in Gloucestershire, with 26.5 per cent of  children aged five and under showing signs of tooth decay.

That compares with an average county-wide figure of 19.5 per cent, and 24.7 per cent in Gloucester, while the average for the South West is 20.4 per cent and England 23.4 per cent.

Speaking at Tuesday’s Gloucestershire County Council health overview and scrutiny committee, council chair Councillor Preest (Conservative) asked health bosses what was being done to address the problem.

“Those figures are pretty devastating for the Forest of Dean. A quarter, not a fifth, of five-year-olds are suffering dental neglect,” he said.

“What are you doing to lower that percentage? And more worrying still, when the 2023 report does come out, I would suggest that may be up towards 30 per cent.”

Dental decay is strongly associated with deprivation, with five-year-olds living in the most deprived areas being more likely to experience dental decay than those living in the least deprived areas, according to NHS England.

Beth Smout, specialty registrar in Public Health, told the committee that the overall figures for Gloucestershire are lower than the South West and English averages but that it was not a “blanket truth” for the whole county.

She said they are working to target the worst affected areas with specific interventions or prevention activities for the Forest and Gloucester.

“The number of toothbrushing packs being distributed varies by district depending on need. The Forest of Dean has been given quite a high number of toothbrushing packs.

“The school work is across the whole county and NHS England work with supervised toothbrushing and first dental steps is going to be focused on the areas with the greatest need.”