Call for UK roll-out of Scots initiative to ‘stop the rot’
Bad teeth remain leading cause of hospital admission among under tens
More than double the number of children – 23,529 – underwent hospital treatment for tooth decay, than for the second most prevalent cause, acute tonsillitis (10,359), according to figures covering the period almost entirely before lockdown, from April 2019 to the end of March 2020.
Since April 2012, more than 350,000 young people have been admitted to hospital south of the border with tooth decay, of which 57 per cent were aged between five and nine. Public Health England’s most recent Oral Health Survey of Five Year-Old Children showed that across England as a whole 23.4 per cent of five year-old children had visible decay.
Dentists have called for “a renewed national effort” to reduce tooth decay in children, including by:
- Urgently identifying a ‘new home’ for oral health work, in the wake of the abolition of Public Health England;
- Extending of the successful ‘Soft Drinks Industry Levy’ to milkshakes and other sugary milky drinks;
- Introducing a national supervised tooth brushing scheme in England, based on the successful ‘Designed to Smile’ programme in Wales and ‘Childsmile’ scheme in Scotland
The Faculty of Dental Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons of England says this renewed focus on children’s oral health is now critical, after a period when dentists could not carry out routine check-ups.
Commenting, the Faculty Dean, Matthew Garrett said: “These latest figures show a welcome decrease of about 8 per cent on 2018/19 in the number of five to nine year-olds going into hospital for tooth decay, but the numbers are still far too high. These are avoidable admissions and more needs to be done to stop the rot in advance.
“It is likely that lockdown will have had a damaging effect on children’s oral health too, with reduced access to routine dental treatment, and disrupted routines which could undermine tooth brushing habits. At the moment oral health has been left out in the cold with Public Health England having been scrapped, without replacements for all its functions.
“We look forward to working with government to resolve this, and we are seeking a renewed commitment to sugar taxes and supervised brushing. Only these measures will bring about a radical reduction in the number of children suffering from preventable tooth decay.”
In addition, dentists face a “tsunami” of untreated tooth decay because children have been kept away from dental surgeries during lockdown, according to a survey. Half of parents in the UK said their children had missed a check-up since March, according to an Opinium survey for the Association of Dental Groups (ADG), which represents practices across the country.
The survey of 2,000 people included 622 parents, with 31 per cent saying their family had decided not to go for a check-up or make an appointment. Another 13 per cent said they had not been able to get an appointment – a sign of the growing problem of delays caused by the pandemic.