Endemic tooth decay is now costing children approximately 60,000 days off school a year, health chiefs have revealed.
A child is having a rotten tooth removed in England every 10 minutes, due largely to high-sugar diets and a failure to clean teeth properly.
Released on the day Britain’s “sugar tax” comes into force, the new figures from Public Health England (PHE) show that, on average, 141 children a day, some as young as one, are having teeth pulled out thanks to avoidable factors.
Officials are calling on parents to swap sugary drinks for low-sugar alternatives such as water and low-fat milk.
They also want children to limit the amount of fruit juices and smoothies they consume to no more than one small glass a day.
Britain’s leading dentists last night said the revenue raised from the Soft Drinks Industry Levy should go towards funding tooth-brushing lessons in nurseries and primary schools.
“It’s upsetting to see so many children admitted to hospital with tooth decay, but swapping out sugary drinks could be an easy win for busy families,” said Dr Sandra White, dental lead at PHE.
“Parents can also help prevent decay by making sure their children’s teeth are brushed twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and reducing how much sugar they’re eating and drinking.”
Tooth decay remains the most common reason for hospital admissions for children aged five to nine years old.
Experts believe 90 per cent of child tooth extractions could be prevented by eating less sugar.
The Faculty of Dental Surgery last night urged schools to make sure high-sugar products such as cake and non-fruit-based desserts are taken off the menu.
Although some brands contain more sugar than fizzy drinks, fruit juice is exempt from the new tax because a small portion – less than 150 ml taken with a meal – counts as one of the five a day.
Milkshakes are also exempt, although they too can contain high volumes of sugar.
Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said:
“These shocking figures strengthen the need for urgent investment in oral health education so that parents and children understand the impact of sugar on teeth and the importance of good oral hygiene.
“Untreated dental care remains one of the most prevalent and preventable diseases affecting children and young people’s ability to speak, eat, play and socialise.”
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