A five-year-old Nottingham girl had to have all her baby teeth taken out because of tooth decay.
The case has been highlighted by a dentists’ union as experts debate how to tackle the city’s “rampant” problem with poor child dental health.
The issue has even led an MP to call for fluoride to be added to the city’s water supply in a bid to improve the condition of people’s teeth.
Figures released in 2015 showed one in three Nottingham five-year-olds has experienced tooth decay – the national average is one in four.
Jimmey Palaley, chair of the Nottinghamshire Local Dental Committee, said children’s tooth decay is a “rampant” issue throughout the country and that “one of the main hospital admissions for children under five is to have their teeth out”.
He added: “The worst case I’ve dealt with in Nottingham was to send a full clearance of a child for all her teeth out. I think it was a five-year-old.
“All her baby teeth had to come out. That was really unacceptable and education was provided to the parents. They had to prioritise the oral health of their children.”
Mr Palaley’s concerns were mirrored by other Nottinghamshire dentists 24 hours after Nottingham North MP Graham Allen said flouride should be added to mains water to help ease the problem.
Nina Taylor, practice manager of Bulwell House Dental Practice and Bilbrough Dental Practice, said: “The worst cases have been where kids have had to have full-mouth care where every single tooth in the mouth has decayed.
“It’s difficult to give an exact reason but there is a variation of reasons. One’s poor hygiene, another’s a poor diet and poor education counts.”
Claire McDonald, practice manager of Daybrook Dental Surgery, used to work in hospitals.
She said: “You’d see kids with 15 decayed teeth and you’d have to give them a general anaesthetic to take them all out. It’s a wider issue, definitely. It’s nothing to do with just Nottingham.”
NHS experts and Nottingham City Council devised a ‘Brushing Buddies’ scheme last November, involving local dentists going into schools to teach children how to brush their teeth and make sure every child has a toothbrush.
Literature is also handed out in schools to encourage parents to take their kids to a dental practice.
Ms Taylor, who has been working in the Bulwell area for 20 years, says the issue has been a problem for the last two decades but that kids’ oral hygiene is “improving”.
“We’re seeing better results. People are taking on board the education we’re giving to them and the advice. We are seeing an improvement on hygiene, but there’s a long way to go,” she added.
All three said the problems revolve around poor diets and parents not teaching and encouraging their children to brush their teeth twice a day and taking them to visit a dentist regularly.
Yesterday, Mr Allen, the MP for Nottingham North, described the condition of children’s teeth in his constituency as “Victorian” and “intolerable in a civilised society”.
He called for fluoride, which is a chemical used in toothpaste to strengthen teeth and make them more resistant to decay, to be used in the water supply in the city.
He said: “There needs to be regular dental checks for all children at primary school and fluoride in the water, which is naturally occurring in many places and is added in many cities throughout the UK with dramatic improvements in dental health.”
He added: “No child at the age of five should be put under anaesthetic to have surgery on their mouths as happens in many cases in Nottingham North.”
Mr Palaley said in certain parts of the city, such as the city centre, water fluoridation would be beneficial.
He said: “Areas can be isolated with water supplies. Evidence would suggest that an increase level in fluoride is better for teeth. It’s certainly better for tooth development.
“As there’s evidence to suggest that some parents need a helping hand, this would be able to provide it.”
Ms McDonald said a small amount of fluoride in the water would also be beneficial for children if they get a lot of water into their diets.
Nottinghamshire Local Dental Committee will discuss the idea at the Park Inn, in the city centre, on Monday, January 16, to form an official response on the fluoridation proposal.