Figures suggest that a child in England has had a tooth removed every 10 minutes, with an average of 141 extraction procedures carried out every day. The new figures from Public Health England were released on the day a new sugar tax was introduced by the government. Some children as young as 12 months old are undergoing treatment under general anaesthetic for a condition that is almost always preventable.
Dental bodies are worried that high-sugar diets and poor oral hygiene are contributing to an epidemic, which is subjecting children to pain, causing them to miss school and costing the NHS millions of pounds.
In light of the statistics, dental experts are keen to promote healthy eating and improve education related to dietary choices and the impact of eating too much sugar. Recently, Public Health England launched a campaign to limit snacking to a small number of 100-calorie snacks per day after it was revealed that a significant portion of children were exceeding their daily recommended sugar intake through snacks alone. The new sugary drink levy will increase the cost of buying fizzy drinks, which can contain around 9 cubes of sugar per 330ml can. The maximum recommended daily intake for a child aged 5 years old is just 6 cubes.
Dr Sandra White, lead dentist at PHE, said that it was “upsetting” to see so many children requiring hospital treatment and called for parents and older children to consider alternatives including water, sugar-free cordial and low-fat milk.
Some dentists have called for the revenue generated by the sugar tax to be invested in oral health education programmes and preventative measures for children.