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The concerning facts about child tooth decay in the UK

The Telegraph recently published an article presenting the shocking impact that the pandemic has had on the dental health of children. NHS figures show that the youngest age groups were most affected; whilst there was 1.2 million dentist appointments for under 5s in 2019, 2020 saw only 468,000 – a 60% fall. According to The Telegraph, this means that only 1 in 7 children under the age of 5 saw a dentist last year, compared to 1 in 3 the previous year, leaving children vulnerable to the risk of tooth decay and further treatment.

The Oral Health Foundation has long called for a united effort in the prevention of childhood tooth decay following concerning statistics released by Public Health England (PHE) indicating that 1 in 4 (23%) of 5-year-olds in 2019 have dental decay. These rising levels of childhood tooth decay continue to be a concern as there is no proven progress since the previous survey in 2017.

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation, said: “In 2020 and the years to come, we can make progress to tackle a heart-breaking level of childhood tooth decay and protect the future of the nation’s oral health.

“No child should be born into a world where they have a one-in-four chance of having decayed teeth on their fifth birthday.

“Over the last decade, we have seen significant progress to reduce the rate of childhood tooth decay, however it is disappointing to see advances come to a halt in recent years and far too many children are suffering needlessly.

“Tooth decay is almost entirely preventable, yet it remains the number one reason for childhood hospital admissions for general anaesthesia in the UK.”

Tooth decay occurs when the plaque on your teeth is damaged by the acids found in sugary food and drinks. The symptoms of tooth decay can vary depending on the extent of the issue, however it may present itself as sensitivity to hot or cold food and drink, pain, and potentially abscesses. In very severe cases, tooth decay can weaken the teeth to the point that they may crack or fragment.

It is important that you monitor the sugar intake of your children in order to prevent dental decay. Dr Nigel Carter states, “We can put an end to this by making positive dietary changes. Reducing how much and how often children have sugar while introducing healthier foods like fruits and vegetables can help them avoid tooth decay and obesity.”

Regularly brushing your teeth is also important to prevent dental decay. Dr Carter continues, “Brushing twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste is also absolutely essential for people of all ages. It can aid dental health by making tooth enamel stronger and more resistant to tooth decay.”

Whilst sugar intake and irregular brushing are common factors in the rise of child tooth decay, it can also be possible for dentists to fail to spot and treat decay. If a decay is left untreated it can lead to serious issues that need extensive remedial treatment and a lead to the loss of teeth.

The Dental Law Partnership has helped a number of younger clients who have suffered as a result of failings by their dentist in treating tooth decay. If you think your child’s dentist has failed to properly treat tooth decay, then contact The Dental Law Partnership to discuss your concerns, or complete our online claim form.

For more information on childhood tooth decay and to support the Oral Health Foundation in their efforts to improve the dental health of children nationwide, visit