Dentistry reported how hospital admissions for dental caries in children is a staggering 221 times higher in the worst-performing parts of England than the best.
Figures released by the chief medical officer showed that 1,550 under-fives per 100,000 were taken into hospital in Rotherham – a total of 584 youngsters, over a three-year period.
But, in Leicestershire, the best-performing area, just six children aged between one and four were admitted – a rate of only seven per 100,000 youngsters of that age.
The issue was raised in the House of Lords, prompting Earl Howe to tell peers: 'This is unacceptable as dental caries is a preventable disease, which can be almost eliminated by the combination of good diet and correct tooth-brushing, backed up by regular examination by a dentist.
'NHS England is working with colleagues within and outside the profession to educate and inform the parents of these young children so that they are not subject to this extremely unpleasant experience at such an early age.'
Public Health England (PHE) has urged local authorities to look again at the case for water fluoridation, because of the enormous difference it makes to the health of children’s teeth.
It has calculated that as many as 45% fewer under-fives are admitted to hospital for tooth decay in areas where water is fluoridated, than in those where it is not.
However, in the Lords, Earl Howe made no mention of the fluoridation controversy, which is being resisted by local people and councils in some areas.
The figures, released by the chief medical officer, also found low hospital admissions for caries in Staffordshire (12.7 per 100,000), Cornwall (13.9), Nottingham (17.3) and East Sussex (23).
In stark contrast, admissions are far, far higher in Blackburn with Darwen (1,074.6 per 100,000), Tower Hamlets in east London (1,051.5) and Sheffield (1,045.3).
The figures, for 2009-2012, showed that, even excluding the five best and worst authorities, the rate of variation across England is 40-fold.