The Dentist Magazine.

Dentists call on next mayor to tackle Manchester’s £13m child tooth decay bill

Published: 24/04/2017

Dentists have called on all candidates in the Greater Manchester Mayoral race to pledge to tackle the city region’s status at the bottom of the national league table for oral health.

Official statistics show a child in Greater Manchester is 60 per cent more likely to end up having to be admitted to hospital to have multiple decayed teeth extracted under general anaesthesia than an average child in England. Over the past four years, the area saw more than 15,000 of these painful and completely preventable procedures, costing the local NHS over £13m. Of the ten local authorities with the poorest children’s oral health outcomes in England, three are in Greater Manchester. Today, five-year-olds in areas like Salford and Oldham are more than six times more likely to have decay than their peers in in Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s Surrey constituency.

The BDA has been in contact with all campaigns and is encouraging candidates to embrace tried and tested reforms, including adapting the pioneering Childsmileprogramme that is having a transformative effect on children’s oral health in Scotland, reducing availability of sugary foods in schools and expanding successful local initiatives within the city region.

Dentist leaders are now urging all mayoral candidates to support their five-point plan for better oral health across Greater Manchester:

  1. Plan for the future – It’s time for an ambitious long-term strategy to turn around oral health across Greater Manchester.
  2. Invest in children’s oral health – Build on tried and tested programmes from across the UK to give kids the best start in life, starting from birth. 
  3. End the scandal of child tooth extractions – Prevent the scandal of children facing costly and avoidable extractions under general anaesthesia in our hospitals.
  4. Extend “Healthy Living Dentistry” scheme – Expand local initiatives delivering real results on healthy lifestyle and dental attendance.
  5. Make Manchester a low sugar city – Reduce the sugar driving decay in schools and workplaces.


Mick Armstrong, chair of the BDA, said, “Greater Manchester tops the league for child tooth decay. The new mayor has an opportunity and a responsibility to tackle this completely preventable disease that every year leaves thousands of the city’s children in hospital facing multiple extractions. It’s causing needless distress and costs the local NHS millions.

“For these kids, good oral health is an investment that lasts a lifetime. Dental problems are already impacting on children’s health, development and confidence and, in adulthood, can increase the risk of strokes, diabetes and heart attacks, and significantly impair their ability to find a job.

“Manchester has already shown it can be an oral health innovator, but not all Mancunians have felt the benefits. We think all children deserve the best start in life. The new mayor must build on progress and be willing to learn lessons from across the UK.” 

Ben Atkins, a local dentist in Salford, said, “I see children day in and day out at my practice with high levels of tooth decay, which breaks my heart as dental disease is preventable. All too often I have no choice but to take out rotten teeth and, if multiple teeth are involved, I have to refer them to the local hospital.

“Why are we carrying out extractions when we should be saving pain and money by aiming to keep healthy teeth in healthy mouths? Investment in prevention and co-ordinated action from the top down could transform these children’s lives to ensure that it’s not just the well-off that benefit from good dental health.”