The 2009 Adult Dental Health Survey found the proportion of adults in England with visible decay has fallen by a fifth since the last survey in 1998.
The change in Northern Ireland was found to be similar, declining by almost a quarter, however, there has been a small increase in Wales of two percent – Scotland did not take part in the survey.
The survey also showed the proportion of adults who had no natural teeth has also fallen in the last 30 years, by almost a quarter in England and by more than a third in Northern Ireland and Wales.
Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter, was pleased by the results and said they show that people, now more than ever, care about their oral health.
Dr Carter said: “These latest figures only go to confirm the progress which has been made in regards to the improving standards of oral health here in the UK. We have suspected this to be true for a while now and it is certainly pleasing to finally see this indeed to be the case.
“It is encouraging to see, that in most cases, the number of adults who are edentate has dramatically fallen, the decay rate is lower and the number of natural teeth has risen.
“Over the last few years, there has been a real demand for and interest in dentistry, from the media, the trade and profession, financial investors and, most importantly of all, the patients and public themselves.
“This is not a surprise of course. There has been a near constant influx of new ideas, improved techniques and more advanced materials in recent times and now even the definition of what actually constitutes dentistry appears to be evolving at pace.”
The survey – which takes place every ten years – is a ‘snapshot’ of dental health across England, Northern Ireland and Wales.
Around 6,500 adults across the three nations had their teeth examined as part of the survey.
The research was carried out by a consortium led by the Office for National Statistics and set out to investigate attitudes to dental hygiene and treatment and to find out how healthy the public’s teeth really are. Despite much of the good news, there were still one or two areas for concern however.
Dr Carter added: “We now know that less than two-thirds of us go to the dentists regularly. Despite this figure improving in all three countries from the first survey in 1968, we still need this to improve.
“Regular dental visits are vital in order to maintain good levels of oral health. The 27 percent who claimed to only visit their dentist when they experienced a problem with their mouths could have prevented potentially problematic treatments and unnecessary financial expense by attending regular dental check-ups.” The survey also presented another hurdle that still faces dentistry. Nearly one in five women – and one in ten men – still suffer ‘extreme dental anxiety’ before they even sit in the dentist’s chair.