Ipswich children have most teeth removed in East of England

For Ipswich children under 10, tooth decay was responsible for 95% of extractions Picture: GETTY IMA

For Ipswich children under 10, tooth decay was responsible for 95% of extractions Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

New data shows severe tooth decay has put hundreds of Ipswich children in hospital – with the town topping the table for extraction rates in the East of England.

The figures, obtained from Public Health England (PHE), show that Ipswich has the greatest number of hospital extractions of any local authority in the region.

In 2017/18, surgeons performed 238 extractions on Ipswich children aged 19 or under, compared with 136 in Colchester and 42 in Norwich.

Of these, 189 had caries (decay) as a primary diagnosis – equating to 80% of all cases.

Meanwhile, for Ipswich children under 10, tooth decay was responsible for 95% of extractions – despite being described by experts as an “entirely preventable disease”.

The town also has among the highest tooth removal rates in the country, with the number of extractions equivalent to 0.7% of the total population, compared with the national average of 0.5%.

Paul Rolfe, chair of the Eastern Counties Branch of the British Dental Association, said “drinks and snacks are the main culprit”, adding that a “recruitment crisis” linked to Brexit is not helping matters.

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“Tooth decay is prevented by reducing the sugar intake. Simple as that,” he said.

“The push to lower sugars in drinks and foods in general to prevent obesity will have a beneficial effect, however it is the frequency of intake which is the main factor, so drinks and snacks are the main culprit.

“Ipswich has a good number of practices providing NHS dental care compared to other parts of the county, not least Bury St Edmunds, and also East Anglia in general.

“There is however currently a recruitment crisis, with a number of practices having vacant positions. The country does not train sufficient numbers of dentists, we are reliant on dentists from overseas to come here to work.

“Since the financial crisis, in a time of freedom of movement within the EU, that flow of dentists has been from the EU. In the last two years of Brexit uncertainty that flow has slowed.”

He stressed that “uncertainty is never good”, adding: “I think if you were an EU dentist, looking to relocate with your family, you wouldn’t consider the UK at the moment.”

When asked what action could be taken to remedy the problem, Mr Rolfe said: “Fluoridation of the water supply to the optimum level of 1ppm would be a wonderful public health measure, and has been shown to decrease the rate of decay by half when it has been introduced.

“There are no plans for this to happen.”

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