ALMOST half of Barnsley's children have tooth decay.

The town has the highest levels of tooth decay in South Yorkshire, with 41 per cent of kids being affected.

Public Health Barnsley will now conduct a study of thousands of children across the town's 79 primary schools to see how widespread the problem is.

Dr Frances Clement, a consultant in public health medicine, said she was shocked at the results.

"Given that we are doing as much as we can, we thought we would have had better statistics. To be the worst in South Yorkshire isn't very good at all."

Dr Clement said reasons for the tooth decay could include "parental behaviour".

She encouraged parents to take their children to the dentist twice a year from the age of seven months and to ask for fluoride varnish, which can be applied twice a year to those aged between three and 18.