Tooth decay hospital admissions rise in five to nine-year-olds

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The number of hospital admissions for tooth decay among five to nine-year-olds has risen for the second consecutive year, new figures show.

Children of this age accounted for more than 26,000 admissions as a result of the dental problem last year, according to data from NHS Digital.

Tooth decay was the main reason for hospital admissions among five to nine-year-olds in England – with more than twice as many compared to tonsillitis.

However, the number of hospital admissions for tooth decay among babies to 19-year-olds has decreased overall.

The Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) said it was “disgraceful” that so many young children require tooth extraction and called for parents to ensure they maintain good oral health.

There were a total of 26,111 hospital admissions for tooth decay among five to nine-year-olds in 2017/18, the data shows, up from 25,923 in 2016/17 and 25,875 in 2015/16.

This compares to just 12,143 admissions for acute tonsillitis.

However the number of admissions for tooth decay is still lower than 2014/15, when there were 26,708.

Professor Michael Escudier, dean of the faculty of dental surgery at RCS, said: “It is disappointing that we haven’t seen the same improvement in the number of children aged five to nine being admitted to hospital for dental decay as we have for other age groups.

“These children will likely be having teeth removed in hospital under general anaesthetic – something that should never be taken lightly.

“When you consider that tooth decay is 90% preventable and NHS dental treatment is free for all under 18s, it is disgraceful that so many children in their early years of school are suffering time away from class to have teeth removed.”

The total number of hospital admissions for tooth decay among babies to 19-year-olds fell from 45,224 in 2016/17 to 44,047 last year, which included two children under the age of one.

The number of admissions among one to four-year-olds dropped from 8,281 to 7,666 across this period, while there was also a decline among 10 to 14-year-olds, from 7,303 to 7,060.

Professor Escudier called on money raised by the sugar tax on soft drinks to be used to improve oral health education.

He added: “Parents and carers must ensure children visit the dentist regularly, eat less sugar and brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste.

“Supervised tooth brushing sessions in nurseries and primary schools are an excellent way to instil good oral health habits at an early age, and there should be support for these programmes in the NHS Long Term Plan.”

Dr Sandra White, dental lead for Public Health England, said: “While dental health in England is improving for five-year-olds, almost a quarter of five-year-olds are still suffering from preventable tooth decay and children in our most deprived communities continue to be hit the hardest.

“Alongside targeted interventions put in place to reduce these inequalities, it’s vital that we continue to educate younger generations around dental hygiene and reducing sugar intake.”

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