Scotland’s dental reputation suffered another blow earlier this month with the revelation that one in 17 Scots had a tooth extracted last year.
The findings do nothing to help the country’s status as amongst the poorest in the world when it comes to oral health, revealing that a total of 300,000 people had teeth extracted under the NHS during 2008.
Of these, 63,000 were under the age of 18 and 2,500 were under the age of four.
A total of 2,000 children had to go to hospital for extractions with some having to have more than one tooth pulled. Some evidence still points towards small children – in extreme cases – having all their deciduous teeth pulled because widespread tooth decay has set in so early in life.
The figures, revealed during parliamentary answers after questioning from the Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Ross Finnie, show the first increase in extractions in five years.
However, the Scottish Government maintains it is on track to meet its target of 60% of Scottish children being free from tooth decay by 2010.
A government spokesman said: ‘With the highest ever number of adults and children registered with an NHS dentist – and more people being seen by a dentist – there is a greater likelihood of those people accessing treatment.
‘The most recent National Dental Inspection Programme survey shows that the dental health of primary one pupils in Scotland has reached the highest levels ever recorded.
‘There is excellent progress toward the 2010 target of 60% of primary one pupils showing no signs of decay, with seven NHS Boards having already met or exceeded targets.’
Ross Finnie said: ‘These figures show the cost of Scotland’s poor oral health record and infatuation with sweets and sugary drinks. We know that almost half of Scotland’s children and almost a quarter of adults are not registered with an NHS dentist.
‘The Scottish Government needs to take steps to change this. We need more dentists and better education for children so that they can learn to take better care of their teeth.’
The Scottish Government has attempted to address the problem of tooth decay, most notably with the introduction of the ChildSmile scheme in 2007.