Preventing tooth decay is one of the most important jobs for any dentist, especially when it comes to children. While the disease will hardly be pleasant for adults, it can be extremely upsetting for young people less able to deal with the pain and the nerve-wracking experience of being hospitalised.
However, as a country, the UK is failing its children when it comes to their oral health. New statistics from the Health and Social Care Information Centre have recently shown that the number of children aged between five and nine that had to be taken to hospital due to tooth decay has risen over the last few years.
In the period of April 2010 to March 2011, a total of 22,574 five to nine-year-olds were admitted to hospital to have decayed teeth removed. The latest statistics show that in 2013-14, this figure jumped up by nearly 3,000 to 25,812. That equates to almost 500 children that had to be admitted to hospital every week.
Tooth decay accounted for more than double the number of hospitalisations among this age group than any other condition. The closest any other disease came was tonsillitis, which was the cause of 11,522 visits to hospital last year for five to nine-year-olds. This cements the fact that tooth decay is the biggest health issue facing UK children.
Not only is the decay painful and the hospitalisation scary, in some cases the disease required children to have every single one of their milk teeth extracted. The rise in tooth decay has been blamed on many things, but sugary drinks seem to be the current focus.
Some people, including professor Susan Jebb of the University of Oxford, believe that anything more than water is unhealthy for children. She told the BBC: “It comes back to simple advice to parents – encourage your children to drink water. Once they’ve been weaned, ‘children should be drinking water’ is absolutely the message.”