Rotten teeth in toddlers at crisis level

FIZZY drinks and sweets should carry graphic cigarette-style images to alert parents to the dangers of the high sugar content rotting children’s teeth, a senior dental surgeon recommends.

Nigel Hunt, dean of the Royal College of Surgeons’ dental faculty, says the situation has reached “crisis” point with children having to wait up to a year to have rotten teeth removed because so many need treatment.

Hospitals have to run extra operations in the evenings and at weekends to deal with the 46,500 children admitted every year to have teeth removed under general anaesthetic after they decayed because of excessive consumption of sugary drinks and sweets.

Almost a third of five-year-olds in England have some tooth decay, according to the latest figures.

Hunt said: “We are reaching crisis point in terms of the number of children needing to go into the dental hospitals for full-blown general anaesthetics for extraction. Almost 26,000 general anaesthetics are being given to five to nine-year-old children every year to have teeth out now.

“We are talking frightening figures and the services just can’t cope.

“At many centres, children are having to wait six months to have a general anaesthetic and there is one, in fact, that is over a year. That child is still in pain for that length of time. The child might be given repeated antibiotics, [and will have] swelling.” The professor said pictures of the damage sugar can cause to children’s teeth should be displayed on sugary food and drinks to warn parents of the dangers.

“In the same way as we have with smoking, that smoking can cause lung cancer and so on, we should be saying high levels of sugar will lead to not only poor oral health and decay but the impact on general health. Pictures always have a greater impact,” Hunt said.

His intervention comes amid growing concern about the impact of too much sugar in the diet.

This week, government advisers are expected to say that the recommended consumption of sugar is halved to 5% of energy intake as David Cameron prepares to take charge of a new drive to combat obesity.

The faculty of dental surgery has produced an action plan for the government to tackle the problem of tooth decay in children.

Its report suggests that parents should be expected to get their child’s personal health record, known as the red book, signed to confirm that they have taken them to the dentist, in the same way as it is marked up to show infants have had their vaccinations.

The report says children should be registered with a dentist as soon as their first teeth appear, which is before their first birthday. Children should then visit the dentist at least once a year. Almost 40% of children in England did not see a dentist between

FIZZY drinks and sweets should carry graphic cigarette-style images to alert parents to the dangers of the high sugar content rotting children’s teeth, a senior dental surgeon recommends.

Nigel Hunt, dean of the Royal College of Surgeons’ dental faculty, says the situation has reached “crisis” point with children having to wait up to a year to have rotten teeth removed because so many need treatment.

Hospitals have to run extra operations in the evenings and at weekends to deal with the 46,500 children admitted every year to have teeth removed under general anaesthetic after they decayed because of excessive consumption of sugary drinks and sweets.

Almost a third of five-year-olds in England have some tooth decay, according to the latest figures.

Hunt said: “We are reaching crisis point in terms of the number of children needing to go into the dental hospitals for full-blown general anaesthetics for extraction. Almost 26,000 general anaesthetics are being given to five to nine-year-old children every year to have teeth out now.

“We are talking frightening figures and the services just can’t cope.

“At many centres, children are having to wait six months to have a general anaesthetic and there is one, in fact, that is over a year. That child is still in pain for that length of time. The child might be given repeated antibiotics, [and will have] swelling.” The professor said pictures of the damage sugar can cause to children’s teeth should be displayed on sugary food and drinks to warn parents of the dangers.

“In the same way as we have with smoking, that smoking can cause lung cancer and so on, we should be saying high levels of sugar will lead to not only poor oral health and decay but the impact on general health. Pictures always have a greater impact,” Hunt said.

His intervention comes amid growing concern about the impact of too much sugar in the diet.

This week, government advisers are expected to say that the recommended consumption of sugar is halved to 5% of energy intake as David Cameron prepares to take charge of a new drive to combat obesity.

The faculty of dental surgery has produced an action plan for the government to tackle the problem of tooth decay in children.

Its report suggests that parents should be expected to get their child’s personal health record, known as the red book, signed to confirm that they have taken them to the dentist, in the same way as it is marked up to show infants have had their vaccinations.

The report says children should be registered with a dentist as soon as their first teeth appear, which is before their first birthday. Children should then visit the dentist at least once a year. Almost 40% of children in England did not see a dentist between December 2013 and December last year.

The document also calls on the health department to fund a national programme to improve children’s oral health in England.

Hunt said the state of children’s teeth was getting worse. The number of hospital admissions for tooth decay among five to nine-year-olds increased 14% between 2010-11 and 2013-14.

The professor added: “We have a problem which is totally unacceptable in this day and age.

“To think that you have a child with a swollen fat face because of infection whose first experience of dentistry is to go and have a full-blown anaesthetic in an operating theatre and to have teeth extraction.”

Even baby or milk teeth, which usually fall out when a child is around six years old, should be removed if they are rotten, say dental experts because they will cause severe pain, possible infection and swelling. Hunt added that waiting list initiatives, where trusts run extra operating sessions in the evenings or at weekends, were widespread.

The northwest has the highest rate of child tooth decay in England — 34% of five-year-olds in the region have some tooth decay. The average child with tooth decay has at least three teeth affected.

At the University Dental Hospital of Manchester, children are waiting up to a year for extraction of teeth under general anaesthetic. Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the dental hospital, said: “The University Dental Hospital of Manchester sees around 1,500 paediatric patients yearly, though this is a rising trend.

“We are currently holding additional sessions to meet regional demand and are currently in the process of recruiting additional staff.”

At Leeds Dental Hospital children are waiting more than four months for their first consultation with a dentist. The institute has experienced a 17.4% increase in referrals for children in the past year.

Yorkshire and the Humber is the region with the second highest level of tooth decay among children — 33% of children have rotten teeth by the age of five.

Dental caries are by far the most common reason for children aged between five and nine to be admitted to hospital. Many are admitted more than once. One study in northwest England found 12%-37% of children were having repeat general anaesthetics for tooth decay.

Serbjit Kaur, acting chief dental officer, NHS England, said: “There’s been a steady improvement in children’s oral health, but the key reason kids have teeth removed is tooth decay from sugary drinks and junk food. So, of course dental surgery is then needed, but let’s also step up the campaign on common-sense prevention.”

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