Dozens of hospital admissions in Luton to remove children's rotten teeth

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The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said the state of children's oral health is "nothing short of egregious".

There were dozens of hospital admissions in Luton to remove children's decaying teeth last year, new figures show.

Figures from the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities show there were an estimated 120 total hospital admissions in Luton for children's tooth extraction in the year to March 2023. Of these, about 50 were extractions for tooth decay. The numbers are rounded to the nearest five.

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Overall, the rate of tooth extractions in Luton was 185 per 100,000 children – below the national rate of 360 per 100,000.

Children are having to go to hospital to have rotten teeth extracted. Picture: Getty ImagesChildren are having to go to hospital to have rotten teeth extracted. Picture: Getty Images
Children are having to go to hospital to have rotten teeth extracted. Picture: Getty Images

Across NHS hospitals in England, there were 47,581 tooth extractions for patients under 19 years old.

Some 66% of these extractions – or 31,165 – were down to a primary diagnosis of tooth decay, up 17 per cent from the previous 12 months.

David Fothergill, chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: "These stark figures reveal that a lack of access to affordable dentistry is having a worrying impact on the state of children’s teeth.

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"The fact that, due to the severity of the decay, on average 119 operations are taking place each day to remove decaying teeth in children and teenagers is concerning and also adds to current pressures on our health service.

"Untreated dental care remains one of the most prevalent diseases affecting children and young people’s ability to speak, eat, play and socialise."

Separately, figures from the Government's annual Oral Health Survey of year 6 children showed 16.2% had experienced tooth decay, with those impacted experiencing decay in at least two teeth on average.

In Luton, about 13.2 per cent of 10 to 11 year olds had experienced tooth decay.

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Eddie Crouch, chairman of the British Dental Association, said ministers have "failed to grasp that decay and deprivation go hand in hand".

He said: "This Government likes to talk about prevention but has offered nothing. It has promised access for all but looks set to just throw money at target seats in rural England.

"Our youngest patients are continuing to pay the price."

Dr Helen Stewart, officer for health improvement at the RCPCH, added the state of children’s oral health in England is "nothing short of egregious".

She said the link between deprivation and decay is "undeniable", as children living in lower-income areas were more than twice as likely to have tooth decay than their more affluent peers.

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The figures also revealed geographical variations, with 23 per cent of children in Yorkshire and the Humber reporting tooth decay compared to 12 per cent in the South West. In the East of England, 13 per cent of the cohort reported having tooth decay.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: "Access to dentistry is improving, and last year around 800,000 more children saw an NHS dentist."

They added £3 billion is invested each year to deliver NHS dentistry and plans have been announced to increase dental training places by 40 per cent.

"We are also taking preventative measures, such as expanding water fluoridation schemes to reduce the number of children experiencing tooth decay," they said.

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