Figures on Bradford children's rotten teeth prompt call for fluoride in tap water
The youngsters undergo operations under general anaesthetic for “dental caries” – infections caused by eating sugary food and failing to brush their teeth properly.
Official statistics show 462 children in the city under the age of five were admitted to hospital over a three-year period, or just under three every week.
Almost all have the rotten teeth extracted – and the figures do not include children who have teeth pulled out in dentist chairs.
High numbers of under-fives were also admitted to hospital with dental caries between 2009 and 2012 in Kirklees (406), Calderdale (197) and Leeds (516).
Now Public Health England (PHE) has used the worrying statistics to make a fresh call for fluoride to be added to tap water, to dramatically cut decay.
The organisation says the main cause of rotten teeth in very young children is deprivation and the number of under-fives admitted to hospital is up to 45 per cent lower where water is fluoridated.
A PHE spokesman said: “Evidence suggests that fluoridating water is the single most effective step we can take to reduce tooth decay generally, both among children and adults, irrespective of personal behaviour.”A decision to introduce fluoridation rests with local authorities after consulting local people.
A spokesman for Bradford Council said it had not taken a stance on fluoridation, but did encourage parents to use fluoride varnish on their children’s teeth and he argued that – while Bradford remained worse than the national average – levels of tooth decay had fallen since 2008.
Dr Shirley Brierley, the Council’s public health consultant, said: “Bradford Council has invested in a number of programmes under the banner of ‘Building Brighter Smiles’, aimed at under-fives, which have improved these figures.”
Deborah Cochran, practice manager at Parkside Road Dental Care Unit in West Bowling, said: “We’ve had people come in here who barely know what a toothbrush is, and have never been to a dentist before in their lives.
“When you’re faced with that, it is a very difficult problem to combat.
“Adding fluoride to the water would definitely make a difference, but education is the key.”
Health experts have dismissed claims that fluoridation causes hip fractures and tooth stains – but the policy remains controversial.