08 February 2024

New data published by the NHS for the financial year 2022 to 2023 exposes a concerning reality: a staggering 47,581 episodes of tooth extractions for 0 to 19-year-olds in NHS hospitals, marking a distressing trend in childhood oral health.

Of these extractions, a significant 66% – 31,165 episodes – were attributed to tooth decay, underlining the pervasive impact of dental issues among the younger demographic.

Worryingly, there has been a notable 17% increase in decay-related tooth extractions for 0 to 19-year-olds compared to the previous financial year (2021 to 2022). The increase has been attributed to the ongoing recovery of hospital services from post-COVID-19 backlogs.

Notably, children and young people residing in the most deprived communities faced a staggering 3.5 times higher decay-related tooth extraction rates than those in affluent areas, highlighting deep-rooted oral health inequalities.

Even more concerning is the revelation that tooth decay remains the leading cause of hospital admission for children aged 5 to 9 years.

Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the Oral Health Foundation, says: "In the face of staggering oral health inequalities, it is disheartening to witness over 30,000 teeth being extracted due to tooth decay. It is a stark reminder of the persistent connection between dental health and deprivation.

“The current data reveals a concerning truth – although the number of extractions is lower than pre-COVID levels, the lingering backlogs in the system obscure the real extent of the issue. This situation is unequivocally unacceptable, demanding immediate action.

“To combat childhood tooth decay, the implementation of preventive policies such as water fluoridation and comprehensive toothbrushing programmes is imperative.

“The government must step up efforts to enhance dental access nationwide, ensuring that every child has the opportunity to receive routine dental care. It is time for a concerted effort to address this pressing public health concern and pave the way for a brighter, healthier future for our children."

Geographical variations in decay-related tooth extraction rates are evident, with Yorkshire and the Humber reporting the highest rates (405 per 100,000 population of 0 to 19-year-olds) and the East Midlands the lowest (80 per 100,000 population of 0 to 19-year-olds).

On the financial front, the costs to the NHS for hospital admissions related to tooth extractions in children aged 0 to 19 years were estimated at £64.3 million, with £40.7 million specifically for decay-related procedures.

Dr Carter adds: "The current lack of urgency to eradicate childhood tooth decay is unacceptable. Acceptance is not an adequate response; it's time for a concerted and decisive effort to prioritize and eliminate this preventable health issue in children."

The full data is available here: Hospital tooth extractions in 0 to 19 year olds: 2023