DOZENS of York children had rotting teeth removed last year, new figures show – and experts say tooth decay is an ongoing issue that is going “unchallenged”.
Data from the Government’s Office for Health Improvement and Disparities shows a significant increase in hospitals removing under 19 year olds’ decaying teeth across England following the Covid-19 pandemic.
The figures show around 40 children aged 19 or younger in York had at least one tooth removed in hospital due to decay in the 12 months to March 2022.
This meant around 94 in every 100,000 children underwent a tooth extraction for decay last year. Overall, 80 extractions were undertaken in the York area.
Speaking on the data for York, a spokesperson for the British Dental Association (BDA) said that tooth decay is still going unchallenged as the number one reason for hospital admissions among young children.
The spokesperson said: “Decay and deprivation are going hand in hand – and this inequality is set to widen.
“None of this is inevitable. This Government needs to be willing to take off the gloves when it comes to fighting a wholly preventable disease.”
The York figure was down from around 65 the year before and 155 in 2019/20, before the pandemic hit.
The BDA said that while the numbers remain well below pre-Covid levels, the data confirms that tooth decay remains the most common reason for hospital admissions in children aged between six and 10 years – and that rates for children and young people living in the most deprived communities are nearly 3.5 times that of those living in wealthier areas.
The association said it was “deeply concerned” that ongoing and severe access problems, together with disruption to public health programmes and lockdown diets, will widen inequalities.
It said the Government is “failing to deliver on much-needed reform and investment” – highlighting issues in the recruitment and retention of dentists.
Nationally, 42,200 tooth extractions were conducted on children in hospitals last year – up from 22,500 the year before but still below pre-pandemic levels.
Of them, 26,700 were due to tooth decay, an 83 per cent rise on 2020/21.
A Department for Health and Social Care spokesperson said good oral health is “incredibly important” and the number of children seen by NHS dentists increased by 44 per cent in the last year.
The spokesperson added: “Likewise in hospitals, we have seen an increase in hospital operations for tooth extraction for those aged 0-19 as oral healthcare services continue to recover from the pandemic.
“The number of dentists increased by over 500 last year and the Government is investing more than £3 billion in NHS dentistry including so people can access services when they need them.”