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New NHS figures reveal 47,581 child tooth extractions in NHS hospitals during 2022/2023 financial year

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  Posted by: Dental Design      8th February 2024

New data published by the NHS for the financial year 2022 to 2023 exposes a concerning reality: a staggering 47,581 episodes of tooth extractions for 0 to 19-year-olds in NHS hospitals, marking a distressing trend in childhood oral health.

Of these extractions, a significant 66% – 31,165 episodes – were attributed to tooth decay, underlining the pervasive impact of dental issues among the younger demographic.

Worryingly, there has been a notable 17% increase in decay-related tooth extractions for 0 to 19-year-olds compared to the previous financial year (2021 to 2022). The increase has been attributed to the ongoing recovery of hospital services from post-COVID-19 backlogs.

Notably, children and young people residing in the most deprived communities faced a staggering 3.5 times higher decay-related tooth extraction rates than those in affluent areas, highlighting deep-rooted oral health inequalities.

Even more concerning is the revelation that tooth decay remains the leading cause of hospital admission for children aged 5 to 9 years.

Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the Oral Health Foundation, says: “In the face of staggering oral health inequalities, it is disheartening to witness over 30,000 teeth being extracted due to tooth decay. It is a stark reminder of the persistent connection between dental health and deprivation.

“The current data reveals a concerning truth – although the number of extractions is lower than pre-COVID levels, the lingering backlogs in the system obscure the real extent of the issue. This situation is unequivocally unacceptable, demanding immediate action.

“To combat childhood tooth decay, the implementation of preventive policies such as water fluoridation and comprehensive toothbrushing programmes is imperative.

“The government must step up efforts to enhance dental access nationwide, ensuring that every child has the opportunity to receive routine dental care. It is time for a concerted effort to address this pressing public health concern and pave the way for a brighter, healthier future for our children.”

Geographical variations in decay-related tooth extraction rates are evident, with Yorkshire and the Humber reporting the highest rates (405 per 100,000 population of 0 to 19-year-olds) and the East Midlands the lowest (80 per 100,000 population of 0 to 19-year-olds).

On the financial front, the costs to the NHS for hospital admissions related to tooth extractions in children aged 0 to 19 years were estimated at £64.3 million, with £40.7 million specifically for decay-related procedures.

Dr Carter adds: “The current lack of urgency to eradicate childhood tooth decay is unacceptable. Acceptance is not an adequate response; it’s time for a concerted and decisive effort to prioritize and eliminate this preventable health issue in children.”

Dr Charlotte Eckhardt, Dean of the Faculty of Dental Surgery (FDS) at the Royal College of Surgeons of England, commented on the figures: “The latest figures are a sobering reminder of the prevalence of tooth decay, something which is largely preventable. The 17% jump in the number of episodes of decay-related tooth extractions in hospitals for 0 to 19-year-olds highlights the urgent need for improved access to NHS dentists.

“There were 31,165 episodes of tooth extractions with a primary diagnosis of tooth decay for 0 to 19-year-olds, representing 66% of all tooth extractions for this age group. Given that tooth decay is largely preventable, it is shocking that tooth decay remains the most common reason for hospital admission in children aged between five and nine.

“Children and young people should be encouraged to brush their teeth regularly with fluoride toothpaste, visit the dentist, and cut down on sugary foods that can lead to decay. The data lays bare the huge inequalities in dental care and enormous cost to the NHS, with decay-related tooth extraction episode rates for children and young people living in the most deprived communities nearly three and a half times that of those living in the most affluent communities.

“The Faculty of Dental Surgery (FDS) supports the expansion of targeted fluoridation to low socioeconomic areas and the introduction of supervised tooth brushing.”

The British Dental Association (BDA), meanwhile, has said the surge in extractions among children illustrates the clear limits of the Government’s recent recovery plan for dentistry, and the need to double down on access and prevention.

Analysis by the Local Government Association of data published today by the Office of Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) shows that last year 120 hospital operations to remove rotten teeth in children and young people every working day.

The BDA warns that ongoing access problems are fuelling this epidemic. It has said it is not enough to pledge to host just one consultation on water fluoridation in the North East and that front loaded investment in preventive schemes must be taken forward with urgency.

England lacks a dedicated national oral health improvement programme to tackle childhood decay. Childsmile and Designed2Smile have secured record breaking reductions in decay, in Scotland and Wales respectively. The BDA warn England’s new Smile for Life programme looks like a poor relation of its devolved cousins, with real question marks over funding, and the scale and scope of any universal and targeted elements.  The professional body has also expressed deep concern over the continued monstering of supervised brushing, following the policy being taken up by opposition parties. Health Secretary Victoria Atkins told Times Radio “Labour seems to think that no parent can be trusted to brush their children’s teeth. We do not take that approach. We say the overwhelming majority of parents do a great job looking after their children.”

“For those children that are struggling, this is where the fluoride brushing dental teams into reception class…really counts because we are targeting it very, very particularly on areas where there are high, high rates of oral ill health.”

The BDA says political point scoring risks closing the door on tried-and-tested policy options. Claims over the ineffectiveness of the schemes in schools are repeated within the new recovery plan, despite the Government’s own modelling showing the intervention more than pays for itself. Ministers failed to keep commitments to consult on expansion of schemes in England by the end of 2020.

The BDA was a strong advocate of the sugar levy and has lamented the dither and delay over action on the labelling and marketing of junk foods, and the absence of mandatory targets for the food industry on reducing sugar levels. 

BDA Chair Eddie Crouch said: “The oral health gap is widening for our youngest patients, and it won’t be halted by holding another consultation. Ministers are trying to turn supervised brushing into a political football. They need to grow up, and double down on tried-and-tested programmes. That means real commitment and ambition, comprehensively funded.  “So, the precise opposite of the plans we’ve seen this week

The full data is available here: Hospital tooth extractions in 0 to 19 year olds: 2023


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