Tooth Decay in Children – Has NHS Dentistry been failing us?

Who failed to read Sunday Times (13th July) front page article about tooth decay in children?

Tooth Decay in Children

  • It is by far the biggest reason for children aged 5-9 yr old to be admitted to hospital with 26,000 admissions in England last year ; double that of the next largest group : tonsillitis!
  • The number is increasing every year
  • In many cases multiple teeth are extracted; sometimes all 20 of the baby teeth!
  • NHS dentists adopt a ‘wait and see’ attitude ( rather than ‘treat’) … because of the uncertainty over effectiveness of fillings !
  • Fruit juice and fizzy drinks are blamed.

The statistics and the comments are in the main correct , the attitude and reasoning  is baloney!

There is only ONE PRINCIPAL  reason for this terrible state of affairs  and that is the incredible lack of effort, time and money spent on educating the public on dental disease prevention; by the Government (the NHS) and the dental profession as a whole in this country. The only education comes from toothpaste companies advertising on television!

The public needs to appreciate the following :

a)    That figure of 26,000 hospital admissions is for England only. What about Scotland, Wales and N.Ireland? These parts of the UK tend to have bigger dental problems than England!

b)    Of all human diseases, dental disease (decay and gum disease) is almost entirely preventable . With the right attitude you can prevent any child getting dental decay!

c)    People need to take responsibility themselves for knowing and acting upon dental disease prevention. It is not the responsibility of Government.

d)    NHS resources are very stretched and have been for many, many years. NHS Dentistry needs to be totally re-invented to be relevant to today (and not function as it did in 1948 when it was formed) . It needs to apportion its funds differently.

e)    Of course excess sugar causes dental decay AND a whole load of other human disorders (not the least that of obesity) . Again it comes down to education! Is taxing sugary drinks is going to work? You must be joking!

f)       I know of no evidence of ‘lack of effectiveness of fillings in children’ . Rubbish! What doesn’t work is rushed, poor quality treatment by NHS dentists  who have to see 30 patients a day and may not have the time or wish to treat a difficult small child in pain .

g)    There are ONLY 240  registered children’s dentistry specialists (Paedodontists) in the UK (not just England). Almost all would be hospital based therefore they would only see the pretty terminal cases.

h)    Baby teeth ARE IMPORTANT. They are the guidelines for the adult teeth to come through and they give children the ability to eat properly . How do you think even a small child with badly decayed teeth feels about their appearance when other kids laugh at him or her for showing rotten teeth?

Teeth Brushing Children

I  have been in private dentistry for most of my professional life. I  spent a couple of years in Melbourne in 1976 and then twelve years in Sydney from 1983. I SAW the beneficial effect of fluoride and dental health awareness on these Aussie kids way back then: we need to instill that kind of education in the UK. This because it is a fact that children that get to their late teens without fillings and tooth decay are likely to need very, very little dentistry for the rest of their lives.

Many if not most private  patients, because they invest in dentistry, value it, are dentally educated and are therefore informed. They institute preventative care in their children from  the word go. Preventative dentistry for children does not exactly cost the earth … it does cost effort, knowledge and not just caring for your kids health, but doing something about it!

So guess what? Dental health in children is a predictor of educational and socioeconomic level of the parents . 50 inch flat screen TVs, I suspect are not!

Cap City is located In the heart of the City of London and can be found at:

123 Cannon Street • London EC4 5AX