Growing numbers of children with tooth decay are being admitted to hospital, damning figures show.
More than 26,000 children aged five to nine were taken to hospital in the past year because of rotten teeth, NHS figures have revealed.
The number has risen for the second year in a row and is more than double the amount of children who needed treatment for tonsillitis.
Experts say the figures are ‘disgraceful’ and have blamed the UK’s sugar obsession for ruining children’s teeth as well as fuelling rising levels of childhood obesity.
The Royal College of Surgeons said it was a national disgrace that so many young children needed tooth extraction.
College spokesman Professor Michael Escudier said: ‘It is disappointing that we haven’t seen the same improvement in the number of children aged five to nine being admitted to hospital for dental decay as we have for other age groups.
‘These children will likely be having teeth removed in hospital under general anaesthetic – something that should never be taken lightly.
‘When you consider that tooth decay is 90 per cent preventable and NHS dental treatment is free for all under-18s, it is disgraceful that so many children in their early years of school are suffering.’
There were a total of 26,111 hospital admissions for tooth decay among five to nine-year-olds in 2017/18, data shows, up from 25,923 in 2016/17 and 25,875 in 2015/16.
This compares to just 12,143 admissions for acute tonsillitis.
However, the number of admissions for tooth decay is still lower than 2014/15, when there were 26,708.
And the number of hospital admissions for tooth decay among babies to 19-year-olds has decreased overall from 45,224 to 44,047 in the same period.
The figures even included two children under the age of one.
Professor Escudier said money raised by the sugar tax on soft drinks should be used to improve oral health education.
He added: ‘Parents and carers must ensure children visit the dentist regularly, eat less sugar and brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste.
‘Supervised tooth brushing sessions in nurseries and primary schools are an excellent way to instil good oral health habits at an early age.
‘There should be support for these programmes in the NHS Long Term Plan.’
Dr Sandra White, dental lead for Public Health England, said: ‘While dental health in England is improving for five-year-olds, almost a quarter of five-year-olds are still suffering from preventable tooth decay and children in our most deprived communities continue to be hit the hardest.
‘Alongside targeted interventions put in place to reduce these inequalities, it’s vital that we continue to educate younger generations around dental hygiene and reducing sugar intake.’