Dentists are pulling out rotten teeth from 1,000 children a month who have yet to even reach their sixth birthday, shocking statistics show.
Huge overconsumption of sugar means nine in every 10 tooth extractions for under-fives are for tooth decay, Public Health England figures show.
Experts said the numbers were ‘horrifying’ and blamed the fact youngsters eat nearly three times the recommended daily limit of sugar.
Children aged five and under accounted for 14,545 tooth extractions in 2017/18 in England, with most of those – 12,783 – being for tooth decay.
Older children were also affected, with tooth extraction the most common hospital procedure among six to 10-year-olds in England.
Children aged five and under accounted for 14,545 tooth extractions in 2017/18 in England, with most of those – 12,783 – being for tooth decay
And more than 60,000 days of school are missed because children are having rotten teeth taken out in hospital.
Among all children aged up to the age of 19, some 38,385 procedures were carried out to remove decaying teeth, although this was down slightly on the 39,010 the year before.
Nevertheless, around 105 children per day are having teeth removed in hospital because of tooth decay that is preventable.
Officials urged parents to watch their children’s sugar intake.
They said most youngsters consume the equivalent of 13 teaspoons of sugar a day – far more than the recommended limit of five teaspoons.
Professor Michael Escudier, from the Royal College of Surgeons, said: ‘The figures published today by Public Health England are horrifying.
‘Tens of thousands of young children are having to go through the distressing experience of having their teeth removed under general anaesthetic for a problem that is 90 per cent avoidable.’
HOW MUCH SUGAR IS TOO MUCH?
The amount of sugar a person should eat in a day depends on how old they are.
Children aged four to six years old should be limited to a maximum of 19 grams per day.
Seven to 10-year-olds should have no more than 24 grams, and children aged 11 and over should have 30g or less.
Popular snacks contain a surprising amount of sugar and even a single can of Coca Cola (35g of sugar) or one Mars bar (33g) contains more than the maximum amount of sugar a child should have over a whole day.
A bowl of Frosties contains 24g of sugar, meaning a 10-year-old who has Frosties for breakfast has probably reached their limit for the day before they even leave the house.
Children who eat too much sugar risk damaging their teeth, putting on fat and becoming overweight, and getting type 2 diabetes which increases the risk of heart disease and cancer.
Dr Sandra White of Public Health England said: ‘Children are consuming far too much sugar each day, and this can have a very serious impact on their oral health.
‘Parents can help reduce their children’s sugar intake by making simple swaps when shopping and making sure their children’s teeth are brushed twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
‘Small, consistent changes like these can have the biggest impact on children’s teeth.’
The data shows that children in parts of Yorkshire and the North West are up to five times more likely to undergo hospital extractions than the national average.
The worst affected areas include Rotherham, Sheffield, Preston and Blackpool.
Doncaster has England’s highest rates of extractions, with more than five times the national average of six to 10-year-olds undergoing the procedure.
Mick Armstrong, chairman of the British Dental Association, said: ‘Children’s oral health shouldn’t be a postcode lottery, but these figures show just how wide the oral health gap between rich and poor has become.
‘While Wales and Scotland have national programmes making real inroads, in England ministers are yet to commit a penny of new money to the challenge.
‘This poverty of ambition is costing our NHS millions, even though tried-and-tested policies would pay for themselves.
‘The Government’s own figures show a pound spent on prevention can yield over three back in savings on treatment.’
Dr Max Davie, officer for health improvement at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, added: ‘Despite being highly preventable, tooth decay remains a significant public health issue, particularly in deprived areas where children are three times more likely to experience severe tooth decay due to higher sugar diets and poorer oral hygiene.
‘We know that poor dental health can have a major impact on a child’s physical health and quality of life, and lead to problems such as infections, eating difficulties, and absences from school.
‘Reducing the amount of sugar consumed by children, particularly in fizzy drinks, is vital, as well as the provision of ongoing, regular, and easily accessible dental care.’
WHAT SHOULD A BALANCED DIET LOOK LIKE?
Meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain, according to the NHS
• Eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day. All fresh, frozen, dried and canned fruit and vegetables count
• Base meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain
• 30 grams of fibre a day: This is the same as eating all of the following: 5 portions of fruit and vegetables, 2 whole-wheat cereal biscuits, 2 thick slices of wholemeal bread and large baked potato with the skin on
• Have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks) choosing lower fat and lower sugar options
• Eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins (including 2 portions of fish every week, one of which should be oily)
• Choose unsaturated oils and spreads and consuming in small amounts
• Drink 6-8 cups/glasses of water a day
• Adults should have less than 6g of salt and 20g of saturated fat for women or 30g for men a day
Source: NHS Eatwell Guide