Advertisement

  1. ITV Report

Hundreds of children in Plymouth suffering from rotting teeth

Hundreds of children in Plymouth are having rotten teeth removed under general anaesthetic. Photo: ITV News

Hundreds of children in Plymouth are having rotten teeth removed under general anaesthetic.

Last year more than 700 under-16 year olds went into Derriford Hospital, some as young as three.

Health experts and politicians say the disease is entirely preventable, but there are fears a shortage of NHS dentists is making the problem worse.

Regular check-ups usually help to keep any serious issues at bay. Credit: ITV News

It's a huge cause for concern. I think it's something we should all be ashamed of as a city and also as a society. It's a shameful figure. If children were going to have a piece of their body removed under general anaesthetic for any other reason there would probably be a public outcry.

But because it's teeth it doesn't seem to really register as being that serious. It's either because they have a large number of death decayed and it's just not possible for the dentist to treat that effectively in the surgery, or because the decay has become so severe that there's no alternative treatment other than removing the tooth.

And that's quite tragic for the child because no child wants to go through an operation whereby they wake up and they have a number of their teeth missing.

– Dr Robert Witton, Public Health England Dentist

Tooth decay is historically linked to high levels of deprivation, and the latest figures seem to bear this out.

The rate of dental extraction in the most deprived parts of the city is almost three times that of more affluent areas.

And there is an added problem, a lack of NHS dentists to actually see and treat these patients.

Tooth decay is historically linked to high levels of deprivation. Credit: ITV News

NHS dentistry in this particular area has relied heavily on dentists from Europe coming to work and support the NHS and obviously because of Brexit we are seeing fewer number of dentists coming to want to work in the UK.

Just because we are in the South West it tends to be more difficult to recruit dental professionals, they tend to like to work nearer the larger metropolitan areas. Really there's a lack of investment from central government.

There are many great dentists locally who want to do more but can't because their contracts are capped. So if there was more investment in dentistry, we could see more patients in the region.

– Dr Robert Witton, Public Health England Dentist
The NHS Change 4 Life campaign features a wide range of resources to help us moderate our sugar intake and lead healthier lives. Credit: NHS Change 4 Life

The NHS Change 4 Life campaign features a wide range of resources to help us moderate our sugar intake and lead healthier lives.

But dentists fear the message may not be getting through.

We need to get these children in before they've got the decay. We're trying to aim now for under 1 years old, 1 to 2 years old, so we can chat to the mother about diet, about fluoride and how to brush the teeth, and that way we can actually prevent the disease.

– Dr Graham Adlard, Dentist

Last year removing teeth from children cost the city of Plymouth almost £600,000.

Last year removing teeth from children cost the city of Plymouth almost £600,000. Credit: ITV News

It's a high cost to the taxpayer, but when you think of operations cancelled and a system at Derriford that is clogged through overwhelming need and operating theatre time, it cost £597,000 to remove teeth from children in this city for a disease that is entirely preventable.

Over 9,000 people are waiting currently for an NHS dentist in Plymouth, and of those 1,677 are children and young people. waiting for an NHS dentist.

– Councillor Sue McDonald, Labour, Plymouth City Council

Plymouth City Council has put oral health at the centre of its child poverty action plan, with a goal to reduce the number of youngsters having teeth removed and give our kids a brighter future.

You can find out more about the problem of rotting teeth in Plymouth below: