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​Tooth extractions: Pandemic means crisis will go from bad to worse 

22 August 2020

The British Dental Association has warned that latest figures on tooth extractions for children will only get worse, as the pandemic exacerbates deep oral health inequalities. 

New analysis of official data from the Local Government Association shows 45,000 hospital operations took place to remove rotten teeth in children and teenagers in England in 2018/19 – equating to 177 a day – costing the NHS £41.5 million a year. 

Data shows 44,685 extractions of multiple teeth were performed on under-18s in England in 2018/19, an increase of 17 per cent compared to the 38,208 extractions in 2012/13, which cost £27.4 million. 

Levels of health inequality in England were already stark. The latest Public Health England survey of oral health of five year olds showed a ten-fold difference in severity of dental decay between those in more and less deprived local authority areas. The BDA has said the pandemic will increase this already unacceptable disparity, thanks to lockdown diets, the suspension of public health programmes working on the prevention of tooth decay, and with high street services currently running at less than a quarter of their former capacity.

Tooth decay has been the number one reason for hospital admissions among young children.

Dentist leaders have said the government has a responsibility to double down on the prevention agenda in response to the pandemic, and not let it lose priority following the abolition of Public Health England. The BDA has called on Ministers to build on the recent obesity strategy, with extension of the successful sugar levy, swift implementation of energy drinks ban for kids, and follow up on policies that were championed in 2019’s green paper on prevention, including supervised brushing in schools.

British Dental Association Chair Mick Armstrong said: 

“It's inevitable these figures will go from bad to worse, as lockdown diets, the suspension of public health programmes and the collapse in access take their toll.

“Government cannot remain a passive observer.

"Any retreat from public health activity will hit England’s most deprived communities. Ministers must ensure the prevention agenda does not become another casualty of this pandemic.”