Who is at fault for the increase in hospital tooth extractions?

shutterstock_231212857It is the patient’s fault, not necessarily the dentists’, for an increase in extractions through 2014/15, says Michael Watson.

Over the weekend the media were full of the explosive figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre showing that there were 14,445 children aged under five, admitted to hospital for extractions under general anaesthetic in 2014/2015.

This does not reflect well on dentists or NHS dentistry, even though as Nigel Carter of the BDHF pointed out: ‘An increase in consumption of sugary foods and drinks is one of the fundamental reasons for dental decay in children’.

Who’s at fault?

Unfortunately we live and work in a world where the fault is perceived to lie with the doctor or dentist, never with the patient.

If people give up smoking, reduce their food and alcohol intake and took more exercise, GPs’ waiting rooms would empty overnight.

If more people restricted consuming sugary foods and drinks to mealtimes only and children were supervised brushing their teeth twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste, as the BDHF advises, then we wouldn’t have a fraction of the extractions we see today.

As a nation, many of us lead an unhealthy lifestyle, both in terms of general and dental health.

But someone else always gets the blame, those in the tobacco and alcohol industries, manufacturers of sugar foods and drinks and we always blame the Government for all our ills.


Let us look at the wise words spoken by Sara Hurley, the CDO for England, last weekend; she said it was ‘really disappointing’ that even though people understand the impact of a sugary diet, so many children have advanced tooth decay.

But she then suggested how we the profession could help, saying: ‘With regular visits for advice, prevention and earlier intervention we can avoid the need for general anaesthetic for the removal of teeth that are beyond repair.’

However, at the beginning February in a House of Commons debate on child oral health, Graham Allen, MP for Nottingham north, said that every three-year-old should have the free NHS dental check.

He said he was trying to work with local dentists to make that happen, but without success.

If the profession is not offering ‘regular visits for advice, prevention and earlier intervention’, for all children, for whatever reason, then we are letting down the public and the most vulnerable members of society.


  1. 1

    The parents of these children are letting them down (in many other countries there is no such a thing as free dental exam and treatments for children, so what are their excuse in this country? ) not the NHS dentists.
    Blame the government? Have you tried to read the comments ( I do regularly ) in different newspapers of a large majority of people of this country as soon as the government even mentions a preventive health care initiative? NANNY STATE !

  2. 2

    With all due respect, it is all well & good to try and ensure every 3 year old gets a check up, then blame the dentists for being uncooperative in making this a reality.
    Can we please also mention the almost unworkable contract that penalises dentists for taking on new high need patients? Can we also please mention that if they have many high needs patients then dentists are unlikely to achieve their targets which means they have to pay money back, therefore potentially making their practices unviable?
    Can we also please mention there is no more funding. It dried up years ago. So where is the extra money going to come from to see all these kids?

  3. 3

    I was surprised that, not even in the narrative accompanying the tables, there was no mention of why the GA rates were so much lower in the West & East Midlands, independent of other factors ….. is F-ve me a suitable expletive

  4. 4

    Until the dental team realizes that dental decay in all ages originates with a bacterial infection (or dysbiosis) which can be managed topically and safely, this deplorable level of surgery will continue. Don’t just blame the victim for sweets and poor oral hygiene. Also blame the dental team for overlooking the bacterial origins of this chronic, common condition.

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