13 Jan 2018

Following the release today of shocking new figures on childhood tooth extractions across England, the UK's leading oral health charity, the Oral Health Foundation, is calling for urgent changes to help stop the sustained growth in the number of operations carried out each year. 

New figures issued by the Local Government Association (LGA), reveal that there were nearly 43,000 hospital operations to remove unhealthy teeth in children and teenagers in the last year - this translates to 170 operations a day.

Speaking on these appalling figures, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter OBE, said: "A continued growth in childhood tooth extractions in England is completely unacceptable. 

"In addition to the pain and distress caused for the children undergoing these operations, the cost of dealing with the problem is becoming dangerously unsustainable for the NHS.

"Local authorities are also under severe pressure, facing continual cuts and budget restraints, seriously limiting their ability to provide preventive oral health programmes, particularly in schools 

"There are two key issues which have contributed to this problem, the first and most obvious being excessive sugar consumption. 

"Tooth decay is the number one reason for childhood hospital admissions in the UK and children consuming too much sugar and consuming it too often is the major cause of this. Dangerously it is also the major factor contributing to childhood obesity and diabetes. 

"We urgently need to look at reducing childhood sugar intake. Much of this sugar is taken in the form of snacks and sugar containing drinks and, in particular, fizzy drinks. 

"Try and limit your children's snacking to no more than two a day and replace unhealthy sugary snacks with healthier foods such as fruit and vegetables. The Change4Life mobile app is a great way of helping to achieve this.

"NHS England have recently made steps to ban sugary drinks in hospitals and the government is due to implement a sugar levy later this year on fizzy drinks, leading to some manufactures changing the recipe of their products but this is only a very small answer to a much bigger problem; the government must do more to help address the dangerous levels of sugar children are consuming in the UK. 

"The second major issue is a lack of proper oral health education, delivered in an effective way to children before a problem can develop. 

"By developing better education for children on issues such as how much sugar is in their diets and how best to look after their oral health the vast majority of these operations can be completely avoided. 

"A good oral hygiene routine, including brushing twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, is essential and we recommend supervising children's brushing up to age 7 to ensure they learn a good routine for life.

"The fact that costs of dealing with this problem have risen by a third in the last decade is completely unsustainable and by implementing effective education early enough the government can drastically reduce this cost and also prevent the pain and suffering of tens of thousands of children every year.

"We believe it is time to consider wider implementation across the UK of a programme similar to Childsmile in Scotland, a programme which has been incredibly successful in reducing levels of childhood dental decay.

"We should also revisit the issue of community water fluoridation. This is the single most effective and cost-effective measure to reduce decay and yet there have been no new schemes introduced since 1997. 

"As a practitioner in Birmingham I witnessed first-hand the huge benefits of water fluoridation with children from Birmingham having little or no decay and their neighbours from then unfluoridated Sandwell experiencing high levels of decay."