In the vast majority of cases, tooth decay is completely preventable, yet 500 children are being hospitalised every week in the UK for dental health problem according to the most recent figures.
Figures from the NHS show that almost 500 children are taken into UK hospitals every week due to dental decay. Many require tooth extraction, which is carried out under general anaesthetic and in some extreme cases, children are undergoing extensive surgery to remove up to 20 rotten teeth.
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The latest statistics from the NHS Social Care Information Centre show that 25,812 children were taken into hospital for dental treatment in 2013/2014; this figure represents an increase of 14 per cent in the last three years.
One of the main issues for today’s children is sugar. Dr Kathryn Harley, a paediatric dentist at the Edinburgh Dental Institute, said that it is common to see children who need up to 12 teeth extracting due to their diet. Fizzy drinks, energy drinks, sugary juices and consumption of sweets, chocolates and other treats, have contributed to a generation of young people who need extensive and risky dental treatment before they reach of the age of 8 years old in many cases. Some children have such severe decay that they need all 20 of their baby teeth removing.
Vice president of the British Dental Health Foundation, Graham Barnby, said that the high rates of decay are directly linked to increased sugar consumption. NHS guidelines suggest a daily intake of 5-6 teaspoons for women and 7-8 teaspoons for men; however, the average daily consumption in the UK is 15 teaspoons.
Professor Susan Jebb, the chief adviser to the Government on obesity, has urged parents to crack down on sugar consumption and encouraged people to be more aware of ingredients in the foods and drinks they buy at the supermarket. Fruit juice, for example, is often marketed as a healthy option, but if you read the label, you may be shocked to discover that if often contains the same amount of sugar as a can of pop. Professor Jebb urged parents to encourage children to drink water and to give them sweets and chocolates as treats on an infrequent basis.