Throughout the United Kingdom, more children’s teeth are rotting out than ever before — and it’s creating a crisis of near-unprecedented scale for the nation’s hospitals.
According to the UK Express, nearly 50,000 children across the country between the ages of five and nine are admitted to hospitals every year for problems created by rotten teeth.
About 26,000 of these children will receive general anesthetics to have their rotten teeth removed. All told, one in every three British five-year-olds now suffers from tooth decay.
All these dental extractions come at a price for the state. Between 2012 and 2013, the National Health Service spent £30 million on hospital-based dental extractions for children 18 and under, the BBC reported on July 12.
Nor are extractions of rotten teeth a good thing for these young patients, either. Childhood tooth decay — most commonly caused by consuming too many sugary foods and drinks — can lead to tooth infection, gum disease and eventual tooth loss. The average American over the age of 20 will have about 24 of their natural teeth remaining — but for this generation of British children, the average amount of teeth they’ll have by adulthood is on track to be much smaller.
The worst part? Childhood tooth decay could be prevented 90% of the time, signalling the need for renewed action against this problem on a wide scale.
In response to these figures, Britain’s top dental surgeon is now calling for cigarette-style warnings on sugary foods and drinks to be a requirement.
“We are reaching crisis. It’s unacceptable that one third of five-year-olds suffer from tooth decay in England,” said Prof. Nigel Hunt, dean of dental surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons.
By labeling products like candy and soda with stark, ominous labeling, Hunt said he believes the UK’s child dental health crisis can be averted.
“In the same way as we have with smoking, that smoking can cause lung cancer and so on, we should be saying high levels of sugar will lead to not only poor oral health and decay but the impact on general health.”