The Local Government Association (LGA) has warned the number of children needing operations to remove rotten teeth could surge after the lockdown.
The LGA said the latest figures show there are nearly 180 operations a day to remove rotten teeth in children a day in England and that number could rise after months of children and teenagers being stuck indoors and snacking on sugary foods and soft drinks.
Previous public health research has revealed about one in four (23%) of five-year-olds in 2019 have had dental decay, while children from more deprived areas (34%) are more than twice as likely to have dental decay compared to those from less deprived areas (14%).
Meanwhile seven in 10 families (70%) with children under five are also reporting more snacking in the household during the lockdown, more than double compared with those who are not living with children, with snacking also risen among families with younger children.
The LGA has called for councils’ prevention efforts to be fully funded to help keep children’s teeth healthy, including reversing a reduction of more than £700 million in the public health grant to councils between 2015/16 and 2019/20.
The public health grant to councils should also be increased to at least £3.9bn a year by 2024/25, so it matches the growth in overall NHS funding, as part of the NHS Long-Term Plan.
‘These latest figures demonstrate the damage which can be done to young people’s teeth through too much sugar intake,’ said the chairman of the LGA’s community wellbeing board, Cllr Ian Hudspeth.
‘The fact that, due to the severity of the decay, 177 operations a day to remove multiple teeth in children and teenagers have to be done in a hospital is concerning and also adds to current pressures on the NHS.
‘We need to do all we can to reduce how much sugar our children eat and drink, including investing in oral health education so that everyone understands the impact of sugar on teeth and the importance of a good oral hygiene regime.
‘Untreated dental care remains one of the most prevalent diseases affecting children and young people’s ability to speak, eat, play and socialise,’ added Cllr Hudspeth.
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