About this release

This release by Public Health Scotland (PHS) provides information on findings of the Detailed Inspection Programme of Primary 7 (P7) children in school year 2022/23. The National Dental Inspection Programme (NDIP) is carried out annually under the auspices of the Scottish Dental Epidemiology Co-ordinating Committee on behalf of NHS Boards.

Main points

  • More than four out of five Primary 7 children (81.9%) who received a detailed inspection in 2023 had no obvious decay experience in their permanent teeth. This is a large improvement since 2005 (52.9%). (Note: no obvious decay experience means there are no obvious decayed, missing or filled teeth).
Image caption Trend in the percentage of P7 children with no obvious decay experience in Scotland; 2005-2023
  • The average number of teeth reported to be affected by obvious decay experience in 2023 was 0.36. This is less than a third of the average number of teeth affected in 2005 (1.29). In those children with obvious decay experience, the mean number of teeth affected was 2.01, a reduction from 2.73 in 2005.
  • There has been an improvement in the inequality metrics, but dental health inequalities persist. Only 71.9% (49.9% in 2009) of P7 children living in the most deprived quintile have no obvious decay experience compared to 88.0% (76.2% in 2009) living in the least deprived quintile.


The principal aims of the programme are to inform parents/carers of the dental health status of their children and through appropriately anonymised, aggregated data, advise the Scottish Government, NHS Boards and other organisations concerned with children’s health of dental disease prevalence at national and local levels. This ensures that reliable dental health information is available for planning initiatives directed towards health improvements.

Two school year groups are involved: i) at entry into Local Authority schools in primary one (P1) and ii) in P7 before the move to secondary education. The Programme has two levels: a Basic Inspection (intended for all P1 and P7 children each year) and a Detailed Inspection (where a representative sample of either the P1 or the P7 age group is inspected in alternate years).

For the Detailed Inspection, each NHS Board is required to identify the number of Local Authority schools needed to obtain a representative sample of a given size from their P7 population. The sample sizes used provide adequate numbers to allow meaningful statistical comparisons between NHS Boards. Whole classes are randomly selected to simplify the process for schools while ensuring that results are representative of the P7 population in Scotland. There are robust methods for training and calibrated dental inspection teams from all Boards. Analysis is undertaken in collaboration with the University of Glasgow.

Further information

The next release of this publication will be 21 October 2025 (the 2024 report will cover the Detailed Inspection of P1 children).

General enquiries

If you have an enquiry relating to this publication, please contact Caroline Buchanan at phs.dental-info@phs.scot.

Media enquiries

If you have a media enquiry relating to this publication, please contact the Communications and Engagement team.

Requesting other formats and reporting issues

If you require publications or documents in other formats, please email phs.otherformats@phs.scot.

To report any issues with a publication, please email phs.generalpublications@phs.scot.

Older versions of this publication

Versions of this publication released before 16 March 2020 may be found on the Data and Intelligence, Health Protection Scotland or Improving Health websites.

Last updated: 21 March 2024
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