Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Benjamin, who is best known for hosting Play School and Play Away, said the state of youngsters’ teeth was “shocking” – putting a huge cost on the NHS – and urged preventative action.
Health minister Lord Prior of Brampton admitted children’s oral health was “very poor”, but insisted it was improving.
The Government also faced calls in the House of Lords for universal fluoridation of the water supply to reduce tooth decay.
However, while acknowledging fluoride was “unquestionably a good thing” for oral health, Lord Prior argued it was a decision for local authorities.
Raising her concerns in the House of Lords, Lady Benjamin pointed out the oral health of youngsters had not been mentioned in the Government’s childhood obesity plan “even though there’s an epidemic of child tooth decay and hospital admissions for extractions.
She said: “The state of the nation’s children’s teeth is shocking, at huge cost to the NHS.
“Common sense says we need targeted action now.”
She added: “Will the Government at least consider making oral health part of the daily school regime as a preventative measure?”
Lord Prior said: “She is right that childhood oral health is very poor but it is getting better.
“Seventy-five per cent of children no longer have tooth decay compared to 69% in 2008, but it is still not good enough.
“The Government’s policy is very much around prevention rather than treatment.”
He said the Government was taking a series of steps including improving health education.
Labour peer Lord Watts called for fluoride to be introduced into the water supply “and ignore those people who think it’s a bad thing”.
He said all the evidence suggested it helped tackle tooth decay, especially in deprived communities.
Lord Prior said: “I think the evidence for fluoride is incontrovertible, that it is good for teeth.
“Now there may be other issues attached to fluoride but in terms of teeth it’s unquestionably a good thing.
“In Birmingham where they have fluoride in the water for many years the incidence of childhood tooth decay is 29%, whereas in Blackburn it’s 57%.
“I think the evidence is very strong but it’s up to local authorities to decide.”