New figures show there were nearly 43,000 hospital operations to remove teeth in teenagers and children last year – equating to 170 a day – prompting council leaders to call for urgent action to tackle sugar.
The Local Government Association, which represents 370 councils in England and Wales, says the worrying figures – up by nearly a fifth in the past four years – are, in most cases, likely to reflect the excessive consumption of sugary food and drink, as well as poor oral hygiene.
There were 42,911 extractions of multiple teeth in under 18s in England in 2016/17 at a cost of £36.2 million, according to new NHS spending data. This is a 17 per cent increase on the 36,833 in 2012/13. The total cost to the NHS of these operations since 2012 is £165 million.
The severity of the tooth decay means that the treatment has to be undertaken in a hospital under general anaesthetic, rather than a dentist.
Councils, which have responsibility for public health, have long called for the Government to implement measures to reduce sugar intake, such as reducing the amount in soft drinks and introducing teaspoon labelling on food packaging.
The LGA is also calling for councils to have a say in deciding where the revenue from the soft drinks levy – due to be introduced in April 2018 – is spent.
A debate on children’s dental examinations and treatment is due to take place in the House of Lords on 18 January 2018.
Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, said:
“These figures, which have risen sharply, show that we have an oral health crisis and highlight the damage that excessive sugar intake is doing to young people’s teeth.
“The fact that, due to the severity of the decay, 170 operations a day to remove teeth in children and teenagers have to be done in a hospital is alarming and also adds to current pressures on the NHS.
“This concerning trend shows there is an urgent need to introduce measures to curb our sugar addiction which is causing children’s teeth to rot.
“There must be a reinvestment in innovative oral health education so that parents and children understand the impact of sugar on teeth and the importance of a good oral hygiene regime.
“Untreated dental care remains one of the most prevalent diseases affecting children and young people’s ability to speak, eat, play and socialise.
“These figures also highlight how regular check-ups at a dentist can help prevent tooth decay and the need for hospital treatment.”