Record number of Gloucestershire children having rotten teeth removed before they’re even 10

A record number of children in Gloucestershire are having rotten teeth removed under general anaesthetic.

Analysis of NHS figures shows that 300 children aged 10 and under had tooth extractions in 2016/17 – despite tooth decay being entirely preventable.

The figure is up from 225 children the previous year, and is more than double the 148 children in 2010/11, when modern records began.

In most cases, tooth decay is caused by having too much sugar in your diet and not brushing teeth or cleaning gums properly.

Children usually have rotten teeth removed under general anaesthetic because it would be too traumatic for them to have injections to numb the pain.

When they are unconscious, dentists will remove as many rotten teeth as possible in one go.

A dentist at work

If a tooth shows even the slightest sign of decay, it will most likely be removed in order to prevent the child from having to undergo further general anaesthetic at a later stage.

The data does not make it clear whether the children are having adult or milk teeth removed.

Young children in Gloucestershire are actually less likely to need rotten teeth taken out as children in other parts of the country.

How does your district fare?

In Gloucestershire as a whole in 2016/17, 300 children had tooth extractions – a rate of one in every 260.

This is how the figures compare in each area of the county.

  • Cheltenham – 46 children, one in 313
  • Cotswold – 28 children, one in 336
  • Forest of Dean – 58 children, one in 166
  • Gloucester – 86 children, one in 219
  • Stroud – 48 children, one in 300
  • Tewkesbury – 34 children, one in 335
  • England overall – 31,666 children, one in 237

Across England, 31,666 kids under the age of 11 had general anaesthetic to remove their rotten teeth in 2016/17 – one in every 237 children.

In comparison, the 300 children having tooth removals in Gloucestershire works out as one for every 260 kids in the area.

Within our region, the Forest of Dean had the worst rate of tooth removal (one in every 166 children aged 10 and under), while the Cotswolds had the best (one in every 336).

Claire Stevens, consultant in paediatric dentistry and spokesperson for the British Society of Paediatric Dentistry, said: “There are still unacceptably high levels of decay in some children, often in the most deprived areas. “Decay is the result of consumption of too much sugar, whether in food or drink, and the absence of effective oral hygiene. When sugar can be kept to mealtimes and children brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, decay can be prevented.

“We all tend to inherit habits and beliefs but sometimes the advice that gets passed down the generations is outdated. For instance, many parents are told baby teeth don’t matter – but they do.

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“The parents I see whose children are having extractions want the best for their children and in most cases, once they have been given the right information on diet and oral hygiene and start taking their child to the dentist regularly, oral health in the family will improve.

“BSPD’s advice is to take your child to the dentist when their first teeth come through – dental check by one – and then as often as recommended by your dentist.

“A child undergoing extractions needs to be calm and still. Sadly, many of the children having multiple extractions are too young to be able to keep calm and still and a general anaesthetic in hospital is the only way they can be treated. It remains the kindest and safest way to treat young children requiring multiple extractions.”

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Dr Max Davie, officer for health promotion for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) said: “Tooth decay is a horrible condition which causes toothache, cavities to develop in the teeth and sometimes abscesses.

“To treat it, children often have to have their decayed tooth extracted and this is an expensive business, costing the NHS around £50m for those under the age of 19. The prospect of having an operation is often scary for children and the risks associated with them should not be underplayed.

“Prevention is most certainly simpler and less traumatic than cure and local authorities have an important role to play.

“They need to show they take children’s dental health seriously by prioritising oral health in Health and Wellbeing Strategies in areas where the oral health of children and young people is a significant problem.”

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