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

20 January 2024

A Liberal Democrat Freedom of Information request 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 requests by the Liberal Democrats has 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 per cent 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 2023 financial year. 

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

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, 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, remove VAT on children’s toothbrushes and toothpaste, and reform the NHS dental contract to boost the number of dental appointments available. 

Ed Davey, Liberal Democrat leader, 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.”