Who is at fault for the increase in hospital tooth extractions?

shutterstock_231212857It is the patient’s fault, not necessarily the dentists’, for an increase in extractions through 2014/15, says Michael Watson.

Over the weekend the media were full of the explosive figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre showing that there were 14,445 children aged under five, admitted to hospital for extractions under general anaesthetic in 2014/2015.

This does not reflect well on dentists or NHS dentistry, even though as Nigel Carter of the BDHF pointed out: ‘An increase in consumption of sugary foods and drinks is one of the fundamental reasons for dental decay in children’.

Who’s at fault?

Unfortunately we live and work in a world where the fault is perceived to lie with the doctor or dentist, never with the patient.

If people give up smoking, reduce their food and alcohol intake and took more exercise, GPs’ waiting rooms would empty overnight.

If more people restricted consuming sugary foods and drinks to mealtimes only and children were supervised brushing their teeth twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste, as the BDHF advises, then we wouldn’t have a fraction of the extractions we see today.

As a nation, many of us lead an unhealthy lifestyle, both in terms of general and dental health.

But someone else always gets the blame, those in the tobacco and alcohol industries, manufacturers of sugar foods and drinks and we always blame the Government for all our ills.


Let us look at the wise words spoken by Sara Hurley, the CDO for England, last weekend; she said it was ‘really disappointing’ that even though people understand the impact of a sugary diet, so many children have advanced tooth decay.

But she then suggested how we the profession could help, saying: ‘With regular visits for advice, prevention and earlier intervention we can avoid the need for general anaesthetic for the removal of teeth that are beyond repair.’

However, at the beginning February in a House of Commons debate on child oral health, Graham Allen, MP for Nottingham north, said that every three-year-old should have the free NHS dental check.

He said he was trying to work with local dentists to make that happen, but without success.

If the profession is not offering ‘regular visits for advice, prevention and earlier intervention’, for all children, for whatever reason, then we are letting down the public and the most vulnerable members of society.

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