New figures show there were over 45,000 hospital operations to remove teeth in teenagers and children last year – equating to 180 a day – prompting council leaders to call for immediate action to tackle sugar consumption.
The Local Government Association, which represents 370 councils in England and Wales, says the worrying figures – up by 18 per cent in the past six years – are, in most cases, likely to reflect the excessive consumption of sugary food and drink, as well as poor oral hygiene.
There were 45,077 extractions of multiple teeth in under 18s in England in 2017/18 at a cost of £38.9 million, according to new NHS spending data. This is an 18 per cent increase on the 38,208 in 2012/13 which cost £27.4 million. The total cost to the NHS of these operations since 2012 is £205 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 Government already announced sugar reduction guidelines for nine food categories in March 2017.
However, the LGA is also calling for councils to have a say in deciding where the revenue from the soft drinks levy – which has raised £154 million since its introduction – is spent.
The Government also needs to reverse the £600 million in reductions to councils’ public health grants between 2015/16 and 2019/20, which councils use to fund oral health programmes and initiatives to tackle childhood obesity.
Cllr Ian Hudspeth, Chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, said:
“These figures, which have risen sharply, highlight the damage that excessive sugar intake is doing to young people’s teeth.
“The fact that, due to the severity of the decay, 180 operations a day to remove multiple teeth in children and teenagers have to be done in a hospital is concerning and also adds to current pressures on the NHS.
“This trend shows there is a vital 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.”