More kids had rotting teeth removed last year, but not as many as before pandemic

More than 100 Islington children had rotting teeth removed last year, new figures show.

By Andrew Dowdeswell, Data Reporter

A dentist operates on an open mouthed child
Photo: RADAR

More than 100 Islington children had rotting teeth removed last year, new figures show.

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 coronavirus pandemic.

But total extractions remain below pre-pandemic levels, and the British Dental Association said the data “understates the level of demand, given huge backlogs and only partial recovery of elective services”.

The OHID figures show around 130 children aged 19 or younger in Islington had at least one tooth removed in hospital due to decay in the 12 months to March 2022 – up from around 70 the year before but roughly in line with 2019-20, before the pandemic.

It meant around 313 in every 100,000 children underwent a tooth extraction for decay last year.

A total of 185 extractions were undertaken in the area, meaning decay accounted for 70% of all procedures.

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% rise on 2020-21.

Tooth decay is the most common reason for hospital admission in children aged six to 10, while the data also showed children living in the most deprived communities are around 3.5 times more likely to have teeth out due to decay than those in the most affluent areas.

The BDA 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.

Eddie Crouch, chairman of the BDA, added: “Tooth decay is still going unchallenged as the number one reason for hospital admissions among young children.

“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.”

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% in the last year.

“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.”

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