Over 100,000 child hospital admissions for rotting teeth since 2018

18 Jan 2024

EMBARGO: 22.30 Thursday 18th January

  • There have been at least 104,133 admissions of children to hospital with tooth decay in the past five years

  • 16,113 under-18 admissions to NHS Hospital Trusts suffering from tooth decay have occurred in 2023

  • More than half (52%) of admissions in the last year with tooth decay were children 

  • It comes as 4.4 million children were not seen by an NHS dentist in the past year

  • The Liberal Democrats are calling for an emergency scheme to ensure children have access to their free check-ups, supervised tooth brushing training, and for VAT to be removed from children’s toothbrushes and toothpaste

A Liberal Democrat FOI has found that there have been 218,005 admissions to hospital for rotting teeth, including more than 100,000 child admissions, since 2018.

A series of Freedom of Information requests by the Liberal Democrats have revealed that NHS Hospital Trusts across the country are treating thousands of children with tooth decay. 

The data from 64 Trusts revealed that there were 30,966 hospital admissions attributed to tooth decay in 2023, with 52% of cases occurring in children aged 18 or below. There were the equivalent of 85 admissions for tooth decay every day with 44 of those occurring in children over the past year.

Manchester University Trust had one of the largest rates of children being admitted to hospital with tooth decay in 2023, with 1,731 admissions. 

In the population as a whole, there were more than 218,005 admissions for tooth decay in the past five years. The equivalent of 100 a day. 

It has been previously estimated that the NHS budget for dentistry has been underspent by £400 million in the last financial year. 

The House of Commons Library provided data showing that 4.4 million children had not seen an NHS dentist in the past 12 months, as is recommended. That equates to nearly 40% of children. 22 million adults, 52% of the population, had not seen an NHS dentist in the past two years. 

Noting the alarming rates of tooth decay in under 18s, the Liberal Democrats fear that a lack of access to NHS dentists, growing waiting lists for dental care, as well as staff shortages and oral health inequalities may create a generation of children with rotten teeth. 

To ensure that no child is forced to go to hospital to treat their tooth pain, the Liberal Democrats would launch an emergency scheme to ensure children have access to their free check-ups on time. They will also encourage supervised tooth brushing training for children in early years settings and remove VAT on children’s toothbrushes and children’s toothpaste, as well as reform the NHS dental contract to boost the number of dental appointments available. 

Liberal Democrat Leader, Ed Davey said: 

“Children are being forced to put up with the agony of tooth decay as this Conservative government has neglected dental services across the country. It is now clear that children aren’t getting the attention they deserve and are being left to suffer pain that disrupts their sleep, eating and education. 

“This Conservative government has made it almost impossible to see a GP, get a dental appointment, and has allowed A&E delays to become dangerously long. Everywhere you look, the Conservative party has brought our NHS to its knees.

“Ending this intolerable situation must be one of the government’s top priorities as the crisis across the NHS continues to deepen.”


Notes to Editors: 

Data provided by NHS Hospital Trusts in England can be found here. (The data for 2023 from Trusts is not full year data).

The research from the House of Commons Library can be found here

It has previously been estimated that the NHS budget is set to be underspent by a record £400m this year, due to a shortage of dentists willing to take on NHS work.




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