According to official figures, last year more than 100 children a day were admitted to hospital to have their teeth extracted under general anesthesia.
The Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) shows that 47,581 dental extractions were carried out in NHS hospitals in England for patients aged 0 to 19 years.
This equates to 119 per day, assuming a five-day work week.
About 66 percent of extractions (or 31,165) were due to a primary diagnosis of cavities, up 17 percent from the previous 12 months.
Hospital admissions for childhood tooth extractions cost NHS hospitals £64.3 million last year, and tooth decay-related extractions cost £40.7 million.
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The rate of impairment-related withdrawal among children living in the most disadvantaged communities was almost 3.5 times higher than that of those living in the wealthiest communities.
And cavities remained the most common reason for hospital admission in children between 5 and 9 years old.
The data also showed regional disparities in decay-related removals, with Yorkshire and the Humber reporting 405 cases per 100,000 children (the highest) and the East Midlands 80 per 100,000 (the lowest).
OHID said the overall year-on-year increase “is likely to reflect a continued recovery in hospital services following the Covid-19 pandemic”.
David Fothergill, chair of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “These stark figures reveal that lack of access to affordable dentistry is having a worrying impact on the condition of children’s teeth.
‘The fact that, due to the severity of cavities, an average of 119 operations are carried out each day to remove decayed teeth in children and adolescents is worrying and increases the current pressure on our health service.
“Untreated dental care remains one of the most common diseases affecting children and young people’s ability to speak, eat, play and socialise.”
Dr Charlotte Eckhardt, dean of the school of dental surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said: “The latest figures are a sobering reminder of the prevalence of tooth decay, which is largely preventable.”
“Children and young people should be encouraged to brush their teeth regularly with fluoride toothpaste, visit the dentist and reduce their consumption of sugary foods that can cause cavities.”
The release of the data comes after the Government revealed its £200 million plan to bolster NHS dentistry in England.
The proposals include £20,000 bonuses for dentists working in underserved communities in a bid to increase appointment capacity by 2.5 million next year.
Mobile dental teams will be deployed to schools in underserved areas to give 165,000 children preventive treatments with fluoride varnishes to strengthen their teeth and prevent cavities.
And there will be consultations about adding fluoride to tap water supplies.
However, the plan does not include the national rollout of supervised toothbrushing in schools, as has been proposed by the Labor Party.
Eddie Crouch, president of the British Dental Association (BDA), warned: “The gap in oral health is widening for our youngest patients and will not stop with another consultation.”
“Ministers are trying to turn supervised brushing into a political football,” he said.
‘They need to grow and redouble their efforts on tried and tested programs.
‘That means real commitment and ambition, fully funded. So, the exact opposite of the plans we have seen this week.”
In Bristol earlier this week, hundreds of people queued outside a dental surgery after it opened its books to NHS patients.
Desperate Britons queued outside a newly opened NHS dental surgery this week. In scenes illustrating the dating crisis gripping the country, hundreds of people queued outside Saint Pauls Dental Practice in Bristol from dawn in the hope of securing a place in their books.
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Speaking in the House of Commons on Wednesday, Health Secretary Victoria Atkins said: “We know that many, particularly those living in rural or coastal communities, are still struggling to find appointments.”
He added: “This recovery plan will put this right by making NHS dental care faster, easier and fairer for patients and staff.”
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak described the package as a “very significant new investment”.
Today he stated that “it will make a significant and rapid difference.”
Dr Nigel Carter, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation, said: “To combat childhood cavities, the implementation of preventive policies such as water fluoridation and comprehensive toothbrushing programs is imperative.
“The government must step up its efforts to improve dental access across the country, ensuring every child has the opportunity to receive routine dental care.”
Daisy Cooper, Liberal Democrat health spokesperson, said: “Tooth cavities are life-altering and often easily prevented. Parents should not be forced to watch their children suffer.”
Wes Streeting, Labour’s health spokesman, said: “Tens of thousands of children were forced into hospital with rotten teeth last year, and the problem is getting worse.
“Not only does this harm children’s start to life, it also costs the NHS.
‘The NHS called for supervised toothbrushing for 3-5 year olds, but Conservative ministers put ideology before children’s health and blocked it.
“The work will give all children a healthy start in life by offering supervised tooth brushing for children aged 3 to 5, because prevention is better than cure.”