Over the past decade, the number of tooth extractions performed on children aged 4 and under has risen by almost a quarter.

NHS data obtained by the faculty of dental surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) shows a 24% rise in tooth extractions – totalling 9,206 procedures within the age group between 2015 and 2016, compared with 7,444 in 2006-07.

So why is our children’s oral health getting worse? Sugar is probably the culprit, says Professor Nigel Hunt, dean of the RCS’s faculty of dental surgery.

He said: “When you see the numbers tallied up like this it becomes abundantly clear that the sweet habits of our children are having a devastating effect on the state of their teeth.

“That children as young as one or two need to have teeth extracted is shocking. It’s almost certain that the majority of these extractions will be down to tooth decay caused by too much sugar in diets.”

Professor Hunt stated that 90% of tooth decay is preventable through reducing sugar consumption, regular brushing with fluoride toothpaste and routine dental visits.

Treatment is free for under-18s, yet 42% of children did not see a dentist in 2015-16.

The residents of the UK might be known for our characteristically wonky smiles, but our addiction to sugar is not just harming children’s teeth, but children are forming bad habits and go on to have bad oral health as adults too.

According to the organisers of National Smile Month, some studies link poor oral health to serious health problems later in life such as diabetes, heart disease, strokes, premature births and other major conditions. Mouth cancer is the 10th most common cancer in men in the UK and 15th most common in women.

Here are some surprising facts from National Smile Month about how we look after our teeth (or rather, don’t look after them)…

  • The UK spends £5.8 billion a year on dental treatments
  • 1 in 4 adults admit not brushing twice a day
  • Only 31% of adults use mouthwash
  • Less than a quarter of adults use dental floss regularly
  • 1 in 3 people have never flossed their teeth
  • 42% of adults use just a toothbrush and toothpaste for their oral care
  • Half of adults say they visit their dentist every 6 months
  • But ¼ of adults admit they only visit the dentist when they have a problem
  • Around 2% of people in the UK have never visited a dentist
  • Over ⅘ of the population have at least one filling
  • On average each adult has 7 fillings
  • 31% of adults have tooth decay
  • 74% of people have had to have a tooth extracted
  • Nearly half of the population are unhappy with their teeth, with 64% naming discoloured teeth the main culprit

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