Most hospital stays for children are to have multiple teeth removed

Professor Jimmy Steele of Newcastle University said health professionals were left with the choice between rot and extractions

Professor Jimmy Steele
Professor Jimmy Steele

A Newcastle dentistry expert has said health professions are left with the choice of leaving children’s teeth to rot or to perform multiple extractions.

Professor Jimmy Steele of Newcastle University said many saw this as preferable to giving children fillings.

It followed news that the number one reason for primary school-aged children being admitted to hospital was to have multiple teeth taken out.

The number of children aged from five to nine needing hospital treatment for dental problems rose by more than 3,000, according to figures analysed by the Health and Social Care Information Centre.

The research, published in the Sunday Times, has been described as “shocking” by a dentistry professor and a consultant in paediatric dentistry said it “beggars belief”.

Provisional figures for the the period 2013-14 show that 25,812 children from that age group have been admitted to hospital to have multiple tooth extractions, up from 22,574 three years previously.

Kathryn Harley, former dean of the faculty of dental surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons, told the paper: “We have children who require all 20 of their baby teeth to be extracted.

“It beggars belief that their diets could produce such a drastic effect.”

Ms Harley said many of the children presenting with problems could need four or even eight teeth out, with “quite a few” having as many as 14 extracted.

Prof Jimmy Steele wit dentistry students
Prof Jimmy Steele wit dentistry students

Some dentists observe how decay progresses in baby teeth because there is uncertainty about the effectiveness of fillings, said Professor Jimmy Steele of Newcastle University.

“A lot of dentists are unhappy about taking out teeth generally,” he told the paper. “They certainly don’t like to take kids’ teeth out.”

The number of children aged from zero to four admitted to hospital to have teeth out has also increased, from 8,060 in 2010-11 to a provisional figure of 8,758 in 2013-2014.

Other key findings for children being hospitalised show that one in 20 (5%) of girls aged from 15 to 19 being treated by a consultant was as a result of intentional self-harm, while boys were more likely than girls to have been injured in an assault (2%).

Similar differences were also apparent for 10 to 14-year-olds, but they were more pronounced for the older age group. There were more similarities in children up to the age of nine.

There were a total of 2.5 million Finished Consultant Episodes (FCEs) in the 12 month period from July 2012 to June last year for children aged up to 19, a very small increase of 0.1% on the previous 12 months.


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer