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Nearly 119 operations a day to remove rotten teeth in children

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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New figures published today by the Office of Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) have shown that there were just over 31,000 hospital operations last year to remove rotten teeth in children and teenagers – equating to 119 per working day .

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents councils in England and Wales, says the stark numbers highlight an alarming increase in the rate of childhood tooth decay.

The severity of the tooth decay means that the treatment has to be undertaken in a hospital under general anaesthetic, rather than a dentist. 

The LGA has called for an increase in funding for oral health improvement schemes, which help councils to work with school children to improve oral hygiene. Councils, schools and other educational settings are keen to expand supervised brushing schemes and scale up their oral health work, to avoid an increase in tooth decay and extractions.

Cllr David Fothergill, Chairman of the LGA’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.

“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.

“We need to do all we can to reduce tooth decay in children. The Government should invest in council run oral health improvement programmes which can help introduce a good oral hygiene regime and prevent more serious problems from developing in the future.”

Notes to editors

There were a total of 31,165 extractions of teeth in under-19s in England in 2022/23 due to tooth decay at a cost of £40.7 million.

Councils and their directors of public health are warning that the increase is in part due to difficulties in access to affordable dental care. Previous analysis by the LGA found that no local authority area in the country has more than 1 dental practice per 1000 of the population, with areas that are more rural or deprived being particularly affected. 

119 a day is based on procedures taking place on a working day (Monday to Friday).