Down in the mouth: Doncaster's child tooth decay problem revealed
More than 800 Doncaster children with rotting teeth needed last-ditch hospital treatment to have their decaying gnashers removed inside a year.
The town has been highlighted as the second worst hot spot in the country for the number of children aged 10 and under who need acute treatment for advanced tooth decay.
Data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre revealed 833 boys and girls from the town were admitted to hospital for tooth extractions due to decay between April 2014 and March 2015.
Elsewhere in South Yorkshire, Sheffield tops the list with 1, 140 admissions and Rotherham is third with 798.
Health chiefs are now launching a public survey around tooth decay in children in a bid to learn more about how they can tackle the issue and also lessen the burden on hospital services.
Dr Rupert Suckling, director of Doncaster Public Health, said: “We are disappointed to have one of the highest rates and are working hard with our local partners to understand the reasons for this and reverse this trend.
“These statistics are good evidence of why we should continue to prioritise prevention in order to reduce the number of cases that need referral to hospital.
“Schools and parents are important stakeholders in improving oral health, but must be seen as part of a wider strategy which should be inclusive of multiple partners including early year providers, health care providers, local business, community and voluntary sectors. Supporting parents with good information as early as possible can help them make positive choices around how they feed their children and maintain their oral health.”
He added Doncaster Public Health is commissioning a dental health survey for five-year-olds in 2016/17 “which will give us an up to date picture of the scale of the problem in Doncaster and help us to better target services.”
Dr Suckling said Doncaster families who are seen by the health visiting team are given an oral health pack containing a toothbrush, toothpaste and a children’s book on attending the dentist. In addition, a pilot scheme has recently been launched for supervised brushing sessions in nurseries.
Across the region 6, 413 Yorkshire children were admitted to hospital with decay in 2014/15. The county was behind only London with 8,362 and the North West with 6,672 for the number of children needing hospital admission as an inpatient for tooth decay.
Professor Nigel Hunt, dean of the faculty of dental surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons, said: “Not only is tooth decay distressing to children and parents, it has serious social and financial implications.
“The need for tooth extraction continues to be the number one reason why five to nine-year-old children are admitted to hospital.
“This issue urgently needs to be addressed, especially since 90 per cent of tooth decay is preventable.
“The problem is partly one of improving oral health education. The Government and dental professionals need to work together to raise awareness of the impact of sugar on tooth decay and improve children’s access to NHS dental services.
“Around 40 per cent of children still do not visit the dentist each year. Regular visits to the dentist encourage good oral health and provide rapid diagnosis and treatment to prevent children from being hospitalised due to tooth decay.”
Sara Hurley, chief dental officer at NHS England, said: “In England, children and young people drink more sugary soft drinks than anywhere else in Europe and we are also creating a legacy of obesity and significant health problems. If we are to get serious about tackling this then prevention is the key.”