Almost 9 out of 10 hospital tooth extractions among children aged 0 to 5 are due to preventable tooth decay, according to data published by Public Health England (PHE) today.
Although the oral health of children is improving, significant inequalities remain and tooth extraction is still the most common hospital procedure in 6 to 10 year olds.
British Dental Assocation (BDA) Chair Mick Armstrong responded by highlighting the inequalities these figures show, with children from deprived areas the worst affected:
Children’s oral health shouldn’t be a postcode lottery, but these figures show just how wide the oral health gap between rich and poor has become.
While Wales and Scotland have national programmes making real inroads, in England Ministers are yet to commit a penny of new money to the challenge. This poverty of ambition is costing our NHS millions, even though tried-and-tested policies would pay for themselves. The government’s own figures show a pound spent on prevention can yield over three back in savings on treatment. If Ministers won’t heed the advice of health professionals, they might want to speak to an accountant.
Tooth decay can cause problems with eating and sleeping, and results in at least 60,000 days being missed from school during the year for hospital extractions alone. Tooth decay could be prevented by cutting down on sugar and practicing good oral hygiene.
While children’s sugar intakes have declined slightly in recent years, they are still consuming the equivalent of around 8 sugar cubes more than the recommended daily limit – often eating 11g just at breakfast. Consuming too much sugar can lead to an increased risk of obesity and illnesses such as type-2 diabetes.
PHE’s Change4Life campaign is encouraging parents to:
- Swap sugary drinks and snacks such as split-pot yoghurts for lower or no sugar alternatives, including lower-sugar yoghurts or no-added sugar juice drinks. The Change4Life website has plenty of easy ‘sugar swaps’ and helpful tips for families.
- Limit fruit juice and smoothies to a total of 150ml per day and only consume with meals – they count as a maximum of one portion of our 5 A Day.
- Ensure children brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste (once before bedtime and once during the day) and remind them to ‘spit not rinse’, as rinsing washes away the protective fluoride. Brushing should start as soon as the first tooth appears.
Taking these steps can lead to fewer days off school and fewer trips to the dentist, although children should go as often as their dentist recommends.
Dr Sandra White, Dental Lead for Public Health England, said:
Children are consuming far too much sugar each day, and this can have a very serious impact on their oral health.
Parents can help reduce their children’s sugar intake by making simple swaps when shopping and making sure their children’s teeth are brushed twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. Small, consistent changes like these can have the biggest impact on children’s teeth.
Parents can also use the Change4Life ‘Food Scanner’ app when shopping in order to see the sugar, salt and saturated fat content in food and drinks and make healthier choices easier.
See the new PHE oral health data published today.