In his latest efforts to highlight the scandal of childhood tooth decay, which currently accounts for 160 youngsters having their teeth taken out under anaesthesia in England every day, local MP, Steve McCabe has written to the Chancellor pressing him to take immediate action to tackle the problem. In his letter, which has been co-signed by MPs from every party in Westminster, he has called on the Chancellor to utilise some of the money from the Soft Drinks Industry Levy to support a new national preventative oral health programme.
This comes in light of shocking revelations from aid workers that the oral health of children in the UK is worse than in some poverty stricken parts of Africa. It was reported this week that charity Dentaid, which works across Africa, Asia and Central America, has set up temporary dental surgeries in Britain to help cope with the scale of problems with children’s oral health. In Birmingham, 29% of five year olds now suffer tooth decay which is significantly higher than the national average. Hospital tooth extractions for under 18s have been rising year on year and have almost doubled in the last four years.
Steve launched his Healthy Smiles for Birmingham campaign in April last year to end the scandal of escalating child tooth extractions in Birmingham. Since then the MP has been calling for an early intervention scheme to improve oral health outcomes for children while reducing the financial burden on the NHS of tooth extractions which cost over £50m a year. He is also calling for better oral health education, improved access to children’s dental services and greater efforts to address high levels of sugar consumption.
Steve led a debate in Parliament in October where he set out the scale of the problem which saw 45,000 children admitted to hospital in 2016 for tooth extractions under general anaesthetic as a result of preventable tooth decay. MPs from across the political spectrum spoke about the need to do more to tackle the problem. He has welcomed the launch of NHS England’s new ‘Starting Well’ programme but has pointed out that this initiative will only be delivered in thirteen local authorities and will be entirely funded from within existing budgets. That’s why he is calling for the Chancellor to commit additional funding for a national preventative oral health programme.
Steve McCabe MP said:
“The revelation that aid workers who usually provide dental treatment in some of the poorest places on earth are now being deployed on the streets of Britain is frankly a shocking indictment of the scale of the crisis we are seeing in children’s oral health. It also highlights how woefully inadequate the Government’s response to this crisis has been so far. We need a national preventative oral health programme put in place and I see no reason why additional funding for this can’t be made available from the Soft Drinks Industry Levy. There is cross-party support for this simple and practical policy which would have a significant impact, as is the case in Scotland.”
“The statistics around childhood tooth decay are truly shocking. It’s absolutely scandalous that tooth decay, an almost entirely preventable condition, is the number one reason why children are admitted to hospital. Addressing tooth decay is not complicated – we know what works, education and early intervention can make a real difference. Painful, costly extractions and risky operations for children are not the answer and the prospect of poorer health outcomes across their lifespan should be reason enough to invest in preventative policies to make good childhood oral health, something every child in every region of the UK can enjoy.”