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Children’s rotting teeth costing hospitals £35m

Council leaders are blaming youngsters’ “sugar addiction” for the sharp rise in the amount being spent to remove children’s decayed teeth


The cost of removing children’s decayed teeth has jumped by 66% in the last five years to £35 million a year, according to analysis by the Local Government Association (LGA).

The body, which represents more than 370 councils with responsibility for public health, said it was concerned that children are being forced to miss school to have hospital operations to remove rotting teeth.

Its research shows there are more than 100 operations to remove decayed teeth in youngsters every day in hospitals in England.

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

Latest figures show that hospitals spent £35 million on multiple teeth extraction in under-18s in 2014/15, compared with £21 million in 2010/11.

Over the last five years, 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 data showed.

Izzi Seccombe, community wellbeing spokeswoman for the LGA 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”.

“Poor oral health can affect children and young people’s ability to sleep, eat, speak, play and socialise with others. Having good oral health can help children learn at school, and improve their ability to thrive and develop, not least because it will prevent school absence.”

Dr Sandra White, director of dental public health at Public Health England, said: “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.”

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

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