New figures reveal hospitals are spending millions on dealing with children’s rotting teeth, forcing council leaders to urge the Government to take tough measures to curb the consumption of sugar.
In 2014/15, hospitals spent £35m on multiple teeth extraction in under 18s. This was a dramatic increase on the £21m spent in 2010/11. Overall, in the last five years, nearly £140m has been paid out dealing with rotting teeth.
More than 100 operations to remove teeth in children and teens are taking place each day in hospitals rather than dentists, due to the severity of the tooth decay.
Council’s argue excessive consumption of fizzy drinks and foods high in added sugar is behind the increase in tooth decay, and they warn more children will be forced to miss school to attend hospital for an operation.
Cllr Izzi Seccombe, the Local Government Association’s (LGA) Community Wellbeing spokeswoman, said: ‘Our children’s teeth are rotting because they are consuming too much food and drink high in sugar far too often.
‘Nearly half of 11 to 15-year-olds have a sugary drink at least once a day. As these figures show, we don’t just have a child obesity crisis, but a children’s oral health crisis too.’
Youngsters in the UK consume more soft drinks than their peers in other European countries, with 40% of 11 to 15-year-olds drinking sugary drinks at least once a day. Poland is the second highest at 27%, and Germany third with 18.5%.
Under-10s get almost a fifth of their sugar intake from soft drinks and for 11 to 18-year-olds, that figure is nearly a third.
The LGA calls on the Government to tackle such high levels of sugar consumption with better labelling on soft drinks and a greater availability of water in nurseries, schools and colleges.
‘Poor oral health can affect children and young people’s ability to sleep, eat, speak, play and socialise with others,’ Cllr Seccombe said.
‘Having good oral health can help children learn at school, and improve their ability to thrive and develop, not least because it will prevent school absence.’
The LGA has previously called for children to have more access to tap water in schools and childcare settings to help limit the consumption of fizzy drinks.