FIGURES showing there were nearly 45,000 hospital operations to remove rotten teeth in children and teenagers – equating to 177 a day – have led local authorities to warn of a potential post-coronavirus surge of dental treatment as lockdown lifts.
The Local Government Association, which represents councils like Worcester, says the stark numbers highlight the dangers of too much sugary food and drink in youngsters’ diets, as well as poor oral hygiene, which is likely to have worsened during the last few months, while children and teenagers have been stuck indoors.
There were 44,685 extractions of multiple teeth in under-18s in England in 2018/19 at a cost of £41.5million, according to latest NHS spending data.
This is equal to 177 per working day, an increase of 17 per cent compared to the 38,208 extractions in 2012/13, which cost £27.4 million.
The vast majority of these extractions are due to tooth decay.
The severity of the tooth decay means that the treatment has to be undertaken in a hospital under general anaesthetic, rather than a dentist.
Councils, which have responsibility for public health, are now concerned that some children and young people who have been at home for months during lockdown could be risking their oral health by snacking on sugary food and drink.
Previous public health research has revealed about one in four (23 per cent) of five-year-olds in 2019 have had dental decay, while children from more deprived areas (34 per cent) are more than twice as likely to have dental decay compared to those from less deprived areas (14 per cent).
The LGA is calling for councils’ prevention efforts to be fully funded to help keep children’s teeth healthy, including reversing a reduction of more than £700million in the public health grant to councils between 2015/16 and 2019/20.
Councillor Ian Hudspeth, chair of the LGA’s community wellbeing board, said: “These latest figures demonstrate the damage which can be done to young people’s teeth through too much sugar intake.
“Untreated dental care remains one of the most prevalent diseases affecting children and young people’s ability to speak, eat, play and socialise.”