Figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre show that for the year beginning April 2013 more than 25,000 children aged between five and nine admitted to hospital for dental treatments.
The next most frequent condition for the hospitalisation of children in this age group was tonsillitis at more than 11,000.
Many reasons have been cited for this, including: poor diet; increased consumption of sugar (with fizzy drinks identified as the main culprit); poor oral hygiene; and the failure of parents to take their children to a dentist, either because of cost or perceived anxiety – on the part of the child and the parent.
Sally Hanks, associate professor of clinical dental education at Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry, said: 'What’s harder to address is how we get over an almost ingrained fear of the dentist – especially for children.
'By using techniques other than general anaesthetic we can help children take ownership of the situation and overcome their anxieties via their own efforts.
'Ultimately, the bottom line is being able to recognise fear and anxiety in children and making this key to the management of their treatment.
'Add to that effective communication, excellent clinical skills and a pleasant environment and we are well on the way to helping children overcome their anxieties and, in so doing, creating loyal, appreciative and enthusiastic dental patients of the future.'