Hospitals spend £140 million on ‘rotting teeth’ in children as decay soars
The cost of removing rotting teeth in children and teenagers has soared by 66 per cent to £35 million in just five years - leading to fears sugar addiction is spiralling out of control.
Council chiefs fear the rise in cases of tooth decay will mean some children are forced to miss school to go into hospital for an operation.
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, the total figure amounts to nearly £140 million.
Council leaders believe that excessive consumption of fizzy drinks and foods high in added sugar are a major reason behind the surge in cases of treatment - 40,970 procedures in 2014/15 compared with 32,457 - an increase of more than a quarter.
The numbers mean that more than 100 operations to remove teeth in children and teens are taking place each day in hospitals rather than dentists, due to the severity of the tooth decay.
And given the high frequency of operations, town halls say it is inevitable this will mean some pupils taking time off school for hospital appointments.
The Local Government Association, which represents more than 370 councils with responsibility for public health, is calling for tough measures to tackle young people’s sugar consumption in its forthcoming childhood obesity strategy.
These include a reduction of sugar content and teaspoon labelling of sugar content in soft drinks, and greater availability of water in nurseries, schools and colleges as an alternative to soft drinks.
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 - making 8.7 per cent of all admissions.
British youngsters are the biggest consumers of soft drinks in Europe - with 40 per cent of 11 to 15-year-olds downing sugary drinks at least once a day. Poland is the second highest at 27 per cent, with Germany third (18.5 per cent).
Under-10s get almost a fifth of their sugar intake from soft drinks and for 11 to 18-year-olds, that figure is nearly a third.
Izzi Seccombe, the LGA’s community well-being 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. 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.”
She added: “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.”