Shocking dental decay figures lead to call for Northern Ireland oral strategy
Three times as many children in Northern Ireland have endured the trauma of operations to remove rotting teeth than those in England, a leading dental organisation has said.
More than 82,000 baby teeth were removed from babies and children in Northern Ireland between 2014/15 and 2017/18, according to statistics from the Health and Social Care Board.
A further 10,046 adult teeth were extracted from older children due to dental decay during the same four-year period.
The figures were released by the British Dental Association (BDA) as they called for a proper oral strategy to be put in place.
The BDA noted that Northern Ireland is at the bottom of the league table for children's oral health outcomes in the UK.
While a quarter of children in England show signs of tooth decay by the time they are five, the figure stands at 40% of children of the same age here. And three times as many local children had operations to remove rotten teeth compared to England.
At the same time, no extra money was allocated to child public health initiatives despite an additional £12.3m coming to Northern Ireland from the sugar levy in the last financial year, the BDA said.
Meanwhile, the organisation has also warned that dentists are struggling to treat residents of care homes across Northern Ireland and said health officials must respond to prevent the situation from deteriorating further.
Caroline Lappin, chair of the BDA Council in NI, said: "Dental disease is almost entirely preventable, yet every day dentists continue to see unacceptably high numbers of often very young children present to have multiple teeth extracted under general anaesthetic.
"The sugar epidemic is fuelling ill health, and we need to take action now here in Northern Ireland."
She added: "At the other end of the age spectrum, we are seeing an explosion of increasingly complex oral health needs from a rapidly growing elderly population that is also retaining some of their natural teeth into old age.
"Currently, resources are insufficient to meet the level of need which is predicted to multiply in the coming years.
"In light of the significant challenges we face, the case for a renewed focus and vision for oral health is undeniable."
The BDA is hosting an Oral Health Matters summit today at Stormont where it will make the case for "nothing short of a dental revolution in care homes, where oral health is no longer considered an optional extra".
It is also calling for a new oral health strategy to replace the outdated current strategy, which has been in place for 12 years.