The Faculty of Dental Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons shows there been a 24% rise in the number of tooth extractions performed on 0-4 year olds in hospitals in England over the last decade. This is the first time long term data for 0-4 year olds has been published.
NHS Digital figures, provided under a Freedom of Information request, show there were 84,086 procedures carried out on 0-4 year olds between 2006/07 and 2015/16. This is a steep increase when compared to a 16% increase in the population of 0-4 year olds over the same period.
Dentists are appealing to parents and the Government to take stronger action against the scourge of sugar on children's teeth. Professor Nigel Hunt, Dean of the Faculty of Dental Surgery (FDS) at the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS), said:
"When you see the numbers tallied up like this it becomes abundantly clear that the sweet habits of our children are having a devastating effect on the state of their teeth. That children as young as one or two need to have teeth extracted is shocking. It's almost certain that the majority of these extractions will be down to tooth decay caused by too much sugar in diets.
"Removal of teeth, especially in hospital under general anaesthetic, is not to be taken lightly. There tends to be an attitude of "oh, they are only baby teeth" but in actual fact how teeth are looked after in childhood impacts oral health in adulthood. Baby teeth set the pattern for adult teeth, including tooth decay."
The figures also show more than 34,000 tooth extractions were performed on 0-9s in each of the last two years. This is higher than at any point in the previous decade. There were 34,788 extractions in 2014/15 and 34,003 in 2015/16, higher than in any single year between 2005/06 and 2013/14.
Professor Hunt added:
"What is really distressing about these figures is that 90% of tooth decay is preventable through reducing sugar consumption, regular brushing with fluoride toothpaste and routine dental visits. Despite NHS dental treatment being free for under-18s, 42% of children did not see a dentist in 2015/16.
"We'd like to see a significant proportion of the money raised through the Government's sugar levy spent on oral health education. Sugar has an almost immediate damaging impact on teeth and if we teach parents and children to cut down on sweet treats and look after their teeth properly, there will be a positive knock-on effect for childhood obesity rates too."
The Government will set out detailed legislation for the Soft Drinks Industry Levy in the Finance Bill 2017. Implementation of the levy is expected from April 2018 onwards.
FDS also says that health workers and school nurses have a role to play in educating parents and children about dental health.