The West Midlands has seen a 300 per cent rise in children being admitted to hospital for multiple teeth extractions in what a senior dentist described as a “massive parenting failure”.
Some youngsters are undergoing hospital operations to remove all 20 baby teeth, according to Dr Nigel Carter, the chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, who practises in the region.
Figures revealed by the Health and Social Care Information Centre showed in the West Midlands in 2010-11 there were 456 children aged under 10 admitted to hospital with tooth decay. But in the last year 1,444 kids were admitted – a rise of more than 300 per cent.
Experts blame a culture of parents rewarding children with sweets while failing to clean their teeth properly as infants.
Dr Carter said: “The rise is absolutely incredible and is indicative of a massive failure in parenting.
“Partly it’s down to background and people from lower socio-economic groups have higher levels of tooth decay.
“It has to be about parenting and looking after children.
“In many cases the first time the child has ever seen a dentist is when they’re taken there in great pain.
“Basically if it gets as far as needing to go to hospital for general anaesthetic, then you’re talking about multiple extractions.
“It’s not unusual for a child to have 12 to 14 teeth taken out and in some cases we’ve heard of all 20 baby teeth being removed.”
Research shows in 2010-11 there were 120 under-fours admitted to hospital for tooth surgery in the West Midlands, but that figure rocketed by 353 cases last year.
So low down the list of priorities is cleaning teeth, that some families have a “family toothbrush”. Dr Carter said: “When we’ve done ‘old for new’ style toothbrush exchange schemes at the practice, we’ve had people bring in new toothbrushes, clearly because they’re either too embarrassed to bring their old one, or there isn’t one at all.
“There are also cases were there are families which have one toothbrush between them.”
Three years ago the total number of people under the age of 19 needing to go to hospital for surgery was 996. Last year it was 2,074.
In 2010-11 there were 6,000 hospital admissions for tooth decay in the West Midlands of all ages. In 2013-14 that had risen to 7,883.
The move away from three square meals a day can also be blamed for the growing problem, said Dr Carter. He added: “Children are now having seven to 10 ‘grazing’ meals, many of which are full of sugar.
“Studies have shown that if you put a spread of food in front of children they would chose to eat a balanced diet.
“But we have the problem where sweets are given as a reward and so they are identified as such by the children.
“It just beggars belief that a parent wouldn’t have noticed their child’s teeth have rotted down to the gums. It is child neglect, basically.”
In Birmingham officials said the fluoridation largely meant that teeth were better than surrounding areas, although there had been a minor rise.
Birmingham’s director of public health, Dr Adrian Phillips, said: “In addition to fluoridation, parents have a big role to play and a regular teeth-cleaning routine is essential for good dental health. It’s also important to cut down on how often children have sugary food and drinks.”
Officials pointed out that in 2012/13 there were 20 times more hospital admissions recorded for non-fluoridated Manchester 5 to 9 year olds than for those in fluoridated Birmingham. Fluoridation costs the city £180,000 per year.