More than one in four children in Sheffield aged five have tooth decay, new figures have revealed.
Statistics released by Public Health England show 29.5 per cent of young schoolchildren in the city have active tooth decay.
But that is down, from 40.7 per cent five years ago.
Sheffield dental health expert Kate Jones said programmes aimed at improving youngsters’ dental health were having an impact but warned there was ‘still work to be done’.
The figures were collected last year as part of the second national survey into the state of five-year-olds’ oral health.
The poll also found the average number of decaying teeth in Sheffield children’s mouths now stands at 1.3, compared to 1.66 in 2008.
Nationally, just under 28 per cent of children have tooth decay, while across Yorkshire the average is 33 per cent.
Ms Jones, Sheffield’s consultant in dental public health, said the reduction in levels of decay was ‘very good news’.
But she added: “The Sheffield figure is an average and across the city there remain wide inequalities.
“There is still work to be done by the council to address these inequalities.”
She said projects are focused on increasing the use of fluoride, by giving out free toothpaste and toothbrush packs to young children, and setting up tooth-brushing clubs in nurseries and schools.
Ms Jones said dental practices are also helping to ensure children have fluoride varnish applied to their teeth at least twice a year from the age of three.
She added: “Oral Health Action teams in several areas of the city have been working with Sheffield residents, community groups, schools and nurseries, pharmacies and health professionals to improve dental health and help people find a dentist.”
Ms Jones said parents and carers can help prevent tooth decay in children by giving them fewer sugary foods and drinks, brushing their teeth with toothpaste containing fluoride, and taking youngsters to the dentist regularly from an early age.
“Safe snacks for teeth include toast, fruit and vegetables, and milk and water to drink,” she said.
Prof Paul Johnstone, regional director for Public Health England in the north, called for joint action.
He said: “This report tells the story of the inequalities that exist between the north and the rest of the country.
“We need a joined-up approach across areas and nationally to look at how, by working together, we can really turn things around.”