Dentist leaders have lambasted the short-sighted approach of Ministers in England towards tooth decay – which remains the number one reason for hospital admissions among children. They have argued that England is now receiving a second class service, and unlike Wales and Scotland has no dedicated national child oral health programme.
Analysis of official data by the Local Government Association (LGA) shows that 42,911 extractions of multiple teeth in under-18s took place in England in 2016/17, costing the NHS £36.2 million - a 17% increase on the 36,833 procedures in 2012/13. These operations have cost the service £165 million since 2012.
The British Dental Association has condemned ministerial indifference as new statistics show the child tooth decay crisis continues to grow, with 170 multiple extractions performed under general anaesthetic on under-18s in English hospitals every day.
The Government's centrepiece policy Starting Well, aimed at improving oral health outcomes for 'high risk' children, has no new funding attached, and is operating in parts of just 13 local authorities in England. Activities in London are thought to cover just three wards in the Borough of Ealing.
The BDA has insisted that national authorities must provide resources to enable all children in England to benefit. It has long advocated the Scottish programme Childsmile as a potential model for England, a national effort in nurseries and schools with both universal and targeted components that has already reduced the bill for dental treatment costs by £5 million a year. The BDA has also called for a proportion of the sugar levy to be earmarked for oral health initiatives.
BDA Chair Mick Armstrong said:
"These statistics are a badge of dishonour for health ministers, who have failed to confront a wholly preventable disease.
"Tooth decay is the number one reason for child hospital admissions, but communities across England have been left hamstrung without resources or leadership.
"This short-sightedness means just a few thousand children stand to benefit from policies that need to be reaching millions."