Dental caries is a largely preventable disease, yet the extraction of carious teeth is the most common reason for the hospital admission of children in England. This raises concern over the perceived failure of current preventive strategies. Despite a number of national and local preventive strategies, childhood caries remains most prevalent among the lower socioeconomic groups and ethnic minorities, especially in northern England. Often overlooked is the social and emotional impact of caries and dental treatment on the children and their families. More long-lasting can be the emotional, psychological and developmental impact on children of dental treatment and extractions under general anaesthesia, especially in unfamiliar hospital settings. Yet, the number of hospital admissions for the 5-9-year-old age group continues to rise and was 26,000 in England in 2018. The aim of this paper is to review the demographic and socioeconomic factors related to hospital admission of children for dental extractions, focusing on the localities with the highest proportions of hospital admissions. It is suggested that a reappraisal of the caries-preventive strategy in those areas of England with the highest proportion of hospital admissions is now urgently needed and the case is forcefully made for targeted water fluoridation.
Author Affiliation: Department of Oral Surgery, University of Leeds School of Dentistry, Worsley Building, Clarendon Way, Leeds, LS2 9LU, UK.
*Original abstract online at https://www.nature.com/articles/s41415-021-2945-8