New research by the Local Government Association (LGA) has found that more than 100 hospital operations are taking place every day on children and teens with "rotting teeth". The cost of removing teeth in children and teens has risen 61% in the last five years to £35m. ($49m)
The LGA represents 370 local councils with responsibility for public health and says it is concerned that rises in tooth decay amongst children and teens will result in many missing school to attend operations. Tooth decay is normally treated by a dentist, the LGA says that the number treated daily in hospital reflects the severity of the problem.
In 2014/15, hospitals spent £35m on multiple tooth extractions on under 18s. In 2010/11, the figure was £21m. According to the LGA, £140m has been spent on the procedures in the last five years.
The LGA is calling for the government to introduce tough measures to tackle young people's sugar consumption. They want soft drinks to be labelled with the teaspoons of sugar inside and greater availability of water in nurseries, schools and colleges.
For children aged between five and nine, dental decay is the top cause of hospital admission - in 2013/14, there were almost 26,000 admissions, 8.7% of the total. 40% of UK 11-15 year olds drink sugary drinks at least once a day.
"Our children's teeth are rotting because they are consuming too much food and drink high in sugar far too often," said the LGA's Community Wellbeing Spokesperson, Councillor Izzi Seccombe, "Nearly half of 11 to 15-year-olds have a sugary drink at least once a day. As these figures show, we don't just have a child obesity crisis, but a children's oral health crisis, too."
"What makes these numbers doubly alarming is the fact so many teeth extractions are taking place in hospitals rather than dentists. This means the level of tooth decay is so severe that removal is the only option. It goes to show that a good oral hygiene routine is essential, as well as how regular dentist trips can ensure tooth decay is tackled at an early stage."