A national “sugar addiction” is feared to be driving a spike in the number of children forced to undergo operations to remove teeth.
Nearly 43,000 children underwent hospital surgery to remove multiple teeth last year – equating to 170 a day, latest figures show.
Hospital operations are only used to remove teeth when the decay has become so bad that that the extraction has to be undertaken under general anaesthetic.
The data for 2016/17 also shows a 17% increase in such operations over the last four years, the Local Government Association (LGA) said.
The LGA said the rise in tooth extraction like likely to be driven by poor diets and excessive sugar consumption among young people, as well as poor oral hygiene.
It has called for new measures to cut the amount of sugar in food and drinks and introduce clearer labelling showing the number of teaspoons of sugar in a product.
The fact that, due to the severity of the decay, 170 operations a day to remove teeth in children and teenagers have to be done in a hospital is alarming and also adds to current pressures on the NHS.
This concerning trend shows there is an urgent need to introduce measures to curb our sugar addiction which is causing children’s teeth to rot.
– Izzi Seccombe, chairwoman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board
The LGA has said that councils should be able to help decide how to spend the income from a new 5% levy on sugary drinks to help tackle the problem.
There were also calls to improve families’ access to dental care that can catch tooth decay early on and help avoid tooth extractions.
Professor Russell Viner, officer for health promotion at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said a tooth extraction is both “very serious” and usually “completely preventable” if children follow a healthy diet.
“At a time when we are faced with reports of chronic bed shortages and cancelled operations, these latest startling statistics should act as a wake-up call to policy makers and act as the catalyst for change.”
The British Dental Association (BDA) condemned health ministers over the figures, saying England is receiving a second-class service as, unlike Wales and Scotland, it has no dedicated national child oral health programme.
Chairman 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.”
An NHS England spokeswoman said:”NHS dental care for children is free, and tooth decay is preventable, buteating sugary food and drinks is driving this unfortunate and unnecessaryepidemic of extractions.
“NHS England is working with thedental profession, local authorities and health providers and has developedStarting Well – a campaign targeted at high-need communities to help childrenunder five see their dentist earlier and improve their dental health.”