In the course of The Dentists, broadcast in June, viewers met several patients being treated at the University Dental Hospital of Manchester. But it was the two children who caused a stir. They were both in the hospital for a general anaesthetic for the removal of several badly decayed baby teeth.
These cases triggered multiple news stories as it emerged that tooth decay was the primary reason for children aged 5-9 to be admitted to hospital in 2013-14. A staggering 70, 000 general anaesthetics for multiple extractions happened in England and Wales last year. How is it so bad when we also hear that the oral health of the nation is improving?
The media was happy to accuse parents of child neglect while the finger of blame was also pointed at sweet and carbonated drinks. The fact of the matter is that itâ€™s very hard to be a wise consumer these days, especially when you are a parent of young children. Supermarket shelves display a wealth of seemingly healthy drinks and snacks but they are packed with sugar. Take â€œno added sugarâ€ squashes. That sounds healthy doesnâ€™t it? But in fact a squash with no added sugar already has sugar in it! Frequent consumption of these squashes combined with poor dental health routines is likely to cause decay. Children would be better off with water or milk.
If I was able to rule the world for a day, I would like children not to experience the addictive taste of sugar in their first few years. Since my appointment as world leader is not going to happen any time soon, letâ€™s push to improve dental health education in nurseries and schools, letâ€™s provide youngsters with fissure sealants to protect their molars and letâ€™s make sure we have enough paediatric specialist teams in the UK who have the training and skills to treat and educate children.