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Tooth decay falling sharply among children, ministry says

JIJI

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The proportion of children with bad teeth has fallen sharply in Japan over the past three decades, preliminary data released by the education ministry shows.

The ministry’s fiscal 2014 survey on child health showed that on average, 12-year-old junior high students had one bad permanent tooth each, the lowest number on record. The average in fiscal 1984 was 4.75 bad teeth per student.

A ministry official attributed the improvement to campaigns to raise awareness of good dental hygiene.

The nationwide survey covered 3.3 million children between the ages of 5 and 17 at kindergartens, elementary, junior high and senior high schools. The survey divided them into 13 age groups.

However, data on the average number of bad permanent teeth applied only to 12-year-old first-graders at junior high schools.

The share of children between 5 and 17 with untreated bad teeth ranged between 18.5 percent and 26.3 percent, also record lows. The proportion who had ever experienced bad teeth ranged from 38.4 to 53 percent, down from over 90 percent logged in the 1970s and ’80s.

The survey also showed that, by prefecture, the number of overweight children in Fukushima ranked among the highest in most of the 13 age groups.

Most schools have already eased restrictions on students’ outdoor activities that were introduced to reduce exposure to radiation from the 2011 meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power station. But many of these children have already grown used to not playing outdoors, resulting in a chronic lack of physical exercise, according to the prefectural board of education.