The Dentist Magazine.

Child tooth decay analysis

Published: 05/04/2017

New analysis from the Faculty of Dental Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons has shown a 24 per cent rise in the number of tooth extractions performed on nought to four-year-olds in hospitals in England over the last decade.

The figures also show more than 34,000 tooth extractions were performed on nought to nine-year-olds in each of the last two years.


Mick Armstrong, chair of the BDA, said, “An entirely preventable disease is going almost unchallenged as the leading cause of hospital admissions among young children. These extractions are placing a huge strain on the NHS and, while governments in Wales and Scotland have set out dedicated strategies, ministers in England have offered little more than a collective shrug.

“It’s a national scandal that a child born in Blackburn is now seven times more likely to experience decay than one born in the Health Secretary’s Surrey constituency. These deep inequalities now require real commitment from government, not just token efforts.”

Professor Liz Kay, foundation dean of the Peninsula Dental School at Plymouth University and a nationally-recognised dental public health expert with a particular interest in children’s teeth, is horrified by the data.

She said, “These figures are simply shocking. I find it outrageous that in this country and in this day and age so many children are undergoing surgery for a condition which is largely preventable. If that many children were having another body part removed because of something we could prevent there would, quite correctly, be a public outcry.

“The data highlight the parlous state of our children’s teeth and makes for depressing reading. Much has been made of sugar’s contribution to childhood obesity, but its effect on children’s teeth is just as perilous. A better understanding of diet and good oral health techniques will help parents and carers go a long way to improving their children’s teeth and avoiding those trips to hospital for surgery. But they need to be supported by the food and drink industry which must surely now address the amount of hidden sugar in what ordinary people consume every day.

“Tooth decay is preventable and for children under the age of 18 dental treatment is free of charge. We need better resourced oral health awareness campaigns to improve public knowledge about oral health issues in children, because in most instances we don’t need to invent new solutions – the answers to the problem are already there.”

Helen Minnery, president of the BSDHT, commented, “The incredibly sad and upsetting thing is that every single one of these 9,206 cases is entirely preventable; with the correct education and application of a basic oral health routine we should not see a single child with tooth decay so severe that they need to have teeth removed, especially at such an incredibly young age when it can traumatise them for the rest of their lives.

“As dental professionals, we are faced with the problems far too often and are only too aware of the impact that this can have on the future direction of that child’s oral health. A young child carries early experiences with them throughout their lives and if they experience tooth pain and the trauma of having teeth removed when they are so young, it stays with them, often manifesting as a phobia of the dentist which they may pass onto future generations.

“No child should have tooth decay to a degree where they need to have their teeth removed, especially when NHS dental treatment is free for under 18’s, yet it is saddening that less than half (42 per cent) of children did not see a dentist in the last year.

“Preventive dentistry and education can avoid problems developing, where the end result is small children experiencing dental extractions. We have to change mind-sets to ensure that this stops.”