Huge rise in number of tooth-extraction operations on children

Councils say there were 40,970 removal procedures by dentists on under-18s in 2014-15 compared with 32,457 in 2010-11

The cost of removing decayed teeth in children in hospital has soared by 66% since 2010-11, according to councils demanding tougher action to tackle sugar addiction.

The Local Government Association (LGA) says £35m was spent on extracting rotting teeth from under-18s in 2014-15, amounting to 40,970 procedures, compared with 32,457 in 2010-11.

It blames the increase on excessive consumption of fizzy drinks and foods high in added sugar, and wants the government to address the issue in its forthcoming childhood obesity strategy.

Izzi Seccombe, the LGA’s community wellbeing spokeswoman, 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.”

Dental decay is the top cause of childhood hospital admission for children aged between five and nine, with nearly 26,000 admitted in 2013/14. Hospital extractions require general anaesthesia, adding to the cost.

The LGA, which represents more than 370 councils with responsibility for public health in England and Wales, says the government should target a reduction of sugar content, as well as teaspoon labelling of sugar content in soft drinks and greater availability of water in nurseries, schools and colleges as an alternative.

Last month, George Osborne announced plans for a sugary soft drinks tax in the budget. The Treasury has not said how much the levy will be but health campaigners want it to be 20%.

The government says there will be one rate for drinks containing at least 5g of sugar per 100ml and a higher tax for those with more than 8g per 100ml. It hopes that manufacturers will respond by reducing the amount of sugar in their products before the tax comes into effect in two years’ time.

Dentists’ leaders said the figures, published on Wednesday, showed that, on its own, the new tax would not be enough to tackle the problem.

Henrik Overgaard-Nielsen, chair of the British Dental Association’s general dental practice committee, said: “The recent sugar levy is a decent starting point, but not a final destination. This is an entirely avoidable epidemic, and we require a strategy that ensures parents, politicians and health professionals are on the same page.”

He said that ministers seemed to have forgotten that “prevention isn’t just better than cure, it’s cheaper too”.

Prof Nigel Hunt, dean of the faculty of dental surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons, said: “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.”


Haroon Siddique

The GuardianTramp

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