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Child tooth decay 'at crisis point'

Sugary foods and drinks should carry cigarette-style warning pictures to highlight the risk of the products rotting children's teeth, according to a senior dental surgeon.

Professor Nigel Hunt, dean of the Royal College of Surgeons' dental faculty, said there was a crisis in the number of children who need to have decayed teeth removed.

He told The Sunday Times: "We are reaching crisis point in terms of the number of children needing to go into the dental hospitals for full-blown general anaesthetics for extraction.

"Almost 26,000 general anaesthetics are being given to five to nine-year-old children every year to have teeth out now.

"We are talking frightening figures and the services just can't cope.

"At many centres, children are having to wait six months to have a general anaesthetic and there is one, in fact, that is over a year."

The Sunday Times reported that hospitals are running extra operations at evenings and weekends to deal with the 46,500 children admitted each year to have teeth removed under general anaesthetic after they are decayed by sugar.

Mr Hunt called for fizzy drinks and sweets to be labelled with stark warnings as is the case with tobacco products.

"In the same way as we have with smoking, that smoking can cause lung cancer and so on, we should be saying high levels of sugar will lead to not only poor oral health and decay but the impact on general health," he said.

"Pictures always have a greater impact."

A Department of Health spokesman said: " Children's teeth are dramatically healthier than they were 10 years ago but it still needs to improve.

"We are radically changing NHS dentistry, so that dentists will be paid for keeping the nations' teeth healthy, rather than just for treating problems as they arise.

"We have asked for expert advice about the amount of sugar we should be eating, which will be published soon, and this will be taken into account as we continue to work on our childhood obesity strategy.

"NHS dentistry is free for children and we strongly recommend parents take children for regular check-ups."

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