Concern at the state of children’s teeth

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The cost of removing decayed teeth in children has jumped 61% since 2010/11 to more than £35 million a year, councils have warned.

The Local Government Association (LGA) said it was concerned that children are being forced to miss school to have hospital operations to remove rotting teeth.

Its analysis shows there are more than 100 operations to remove multiple decayed teeth in youngsters and teenagers every day in England’s hospitals.

It blamed excessive consumption of fizzy drinks and foods high in added sugar as a major reason why more children are having teeth removed.

Data showed a £35.29 million spend on multiple teeth extraction among under-18s in 2014/15, compared with £21.89 million in 2010/11.

Since 2010/11, almost £140 million has been spent.

There were 40,970 procedures among under-18s in 2014/15 compared with 32,457 in 2010/11, the LGA’s analysis showed.

Izzi Seccombe, community wellbeing spokeswoman for the LGA, which represents more than 370 councils responsible for public health, said: “Our children’s teeth are rotting because they are consuming too much food and drink high in sugar far too often.

“Nearly half of 11 to 15-year-olds have a sugary drink at least once a day. As these figures show, we don’t just have a child obesity crisis, but a children’s oral health crisis too.

“What makes these numbers doubly alarming is the fact so many teeth extractions are taking place in hospitals rather than dentists.

“This means the level of tooth decay is so severe that removal is the only option. It goes to show that a good oral hygiene routine is essential, as well as how regular dentist trips can ensure tooth decay is tackled at an early stage.”

In Suffolk, almost 20% of five-year-olds have tooth decay, with some already having three to four decayed teeth by the time they start school.

Suffolk County Council has launched a five-year plan including giving mothers toothbrushes and toothpaste for their youngsters.

Data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) shows a steady climb in the numbers of children aged 10 and under needing one or more teeth taken out.

More boys than girls needed teeth out in hospital in 2014/15. There were more than 14,000 cases among children aged five and under needing teeth removed.

Overall, there have been 128,558 episodes of children aged 10 and under needing one or more teeth out since 2011.

Professor Nigel Hunt, dean of the faculty of dental surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons, said: “These figures are shocking. Tooth decay is the most common reason five to nine-year-olds are admitted to hospital even though it is 90% preventable through better diet and improved oral health - including regular dental visits and brushing with fluoride toothpaste.

“As dental surgeons who called for a sugar tax, we now urge the Government to put vital resource into developing a children’s oral health strategy to address this.

“However, local authorities can also do a lot more such as introducing water fluoridation in their areas and supporting sugar reduction in schools.”

Henrik Overgaard-Nielsen, from the British Dental Association, said: “Ministers keep forgetting that prevention isn’t just better than cure, it’s cheaper too.

“A cash-strapped NHS is spending money it doesn’t have on surgical procedures for children with advanced decay, when it could spend a fraction of that sum keeping healthy teeth in healthy mouths.”

Dr Sandra White, director of dental public health at Public Health England, said: “Tooth decay is painful and impacts on a child’s ability to sleep, eat, speak and socialise.

“We can prevent tooth decay in our children, by limiting sugary food and drink, making sure they brush their teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, especially before bed, and taking them to the dentist regularly.”

Sara Hurley, chief dental officer at NHS England, said: “The sad but completely avoidable reality is that our children and young people now drink more sugary soft drinks than anywhere else in Europe, so we are creating a legacy of obesity and oral health problems. So to get serious about tackling tooth loss means getting serious about prevention.

“Parents and carers need to proactively monitor and reduce the sugar in their children’s diet and ensure regular tooth brushing with a fluoride toothpaste. Local authorities can also play their part, including by using their licensing powers to restrict junk food outlets near schools.”