Children’s Rotting Teeth a ‘Crisis’ as the NHS Performs More than 100 Removals Every Day

The cost of extractions has soared 61 per cent since 2010/11 as experts blame excessive consumption of fizzy drinks and food high in added sugar

Fizzy drinks have been blamed for the problem.


Children are suffering an oral health “crisis”, with the NHS now performing more than 100 operations to remove multiple rotting teeth every single day. And the crippling cost of removing kids’ decayed teeth has soared by 61 per cent since 2010/11 to over £35million a year.

Experts described the figures as “shocking” and “alarming”.

A new local government association analysis showed there are over 100 operations to remove multiple decayed teeth in youngsters and teenagers every day in England’s hospitals. It blamed excessive consumption of fizzy drinks and foods high in added sugar as a major reason why more children are having teeth removed.

Data showed £35.29million spent on multiple teeth extraction among under 18-year-olds in 2014/15, compared with £21.89million in 2010/11. Since 2010/11, almost £140million has been spent.

There were 40,970 procedures among under 18-year-olds in 2014/15 compared with 32,457 in 2010/11, the LGA’s analysis showed.

Izzi Seccombe, community wellbeing spokeswoman for the LGA, which represents more than 370 councils responsible for public health, 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 that 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.

“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.”

In Suffolk, almost 20 per cent of five-year-olds have tooth decay, with some already having three to four decayed teeth by the time they start school.

Suffolk County Council has launched a five-year plan including giving mothers toothbrushes and toothpaste for their youngsters.

Data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre shows a steady climb in the numbers of children aged 10 and under needing one or more teeth taken out.

More boys than girls needed teeth out in the hospital in 2014/15. There were more than 14,000 cases among children aged five and under needing teeth removed.

Overall, there have been 128,558 episodes of children aged ten and under needing one or more teeth out since 2011.

Prof. Nigel Hunt, dean of the faculty of dental surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons, said: “These figures are shocking. Tooth decay is the most common reason five- to nine-year-olds are admitted to the hospital even though it is 90 per cent preventable through better diet and improved oral health – including regular dental visits and brushing with fluoride toothpaste.

“As dental surgeons who called for a sugar tax, we now urge the government to put vital resource into developing a children’s oral health strategy to address this.

“However, local authorities can also do a lot more such as introducing water fluoridation in their areas and supporting sugar reduction in schools.”

Henrik Overgaard-Nielsen of the British Dental Association added: “Ministers keep forgetting that prevention isn’t just better than cure, it’s cheaper too.

“A cash-strapped NHS is spending money it doesn’t have on surgical procedures for children with advanced decay, when it could spend a fraction of that sum keeping healthy teeth in healthy mouths.”

He added: “The recent sugar levy is a decent starting point, but not a final destination. This is an entirely avoidable epidemic, and we require a strategy that ensures parents, politicians and health professionals are on the same page.” – Andrew Gregory