IN just nine months last year, 190 children were admitted to hospital in Bradford to have multiple teeth pulled out in one go, usually under general anaesthetic.

Across the country, an average of 160 children per day undergo the same treatment.

In fact, the number of children under the age of 10 needing hospital treatment because of tooth decay is twice as high as the number needing help for a broken arm, according to new analysis.

While arm fractures are one of the more common ailments, hospitals are treating twice as many children with rotten teeth, according to data released by the Royal College of Surgeons’ Faculty of Dental Surgery (FDS).

An analysis of NHS Digital data shows that, overall, there were 45,224 cases of children and teenagers aged up to 19 who needed hospital treatment because of tooth decay in 2016/17.

Despite the fact tooth decay is preventable in 90 per cent of cases, it is the most common reason that children aged between five and nine need treatment in hospital, the FDS added.

The appalling statistics seem to stem from the fact that four in ten children haven’t seen a dentist for more than a year.

Why? Well, the FDS says some of it will be down to the fact that parents aren’t taking their children to the dentists, possibly because they are unaware that NHS dental treatment is free for all under-18s, but the British Dental Association (BDA) thinks the problem goes deeper.

It believes much of the problem lies in the figures revealed in a recent BBC investigation which showed that 40 per cent of NHS dentists were refusing to take on new patients, leaving some patients waiting years for treatment.

It’s a cause that has been taken up fiercely by Judith Cummins, MP for Bradford South.

She told a Westminster Hall debate on Oral’s Children’s Health this week that there is a “growing crisis in NHS dentistry.”

“For too long, oral and dental health has been overshadowed by understandable concerns about other areas of the NHS, but addressing wider issues in our NHS should not mean that we forget to take action elsewhere,” she said. “For too long, oral and dental health has been the Cinderella service of our NHS. That must end.”

In September, Ms Cummins led a House of Commons debate on access to NHS dentists in which she told MPs that dental practices in working-class areas were struggling to stay afloat because of spiralling costs and a decline in income, while BDA research had shown that four in 10 patients delayed dental check-ups because of fears about the high-cost of treatment.

“Bradford has among the worst oral health outcomes in the country, despite the hard work of local public health officials,” she said. “We have received additional funding… but frustratingly this was only temporary.

“Despite my efforts, the Government still have not announced whether any permanent funding will be put in place. That is simply unacceptable.

“Official figures reveal that a five-year-old in Bradford is four and a half times more likely to suffer from tooth decay than a child in the Health Secretary’s constituency of South West Surrey.”

She said the figures revealed that a third of children in Bradford had not seen a dentist for more than two years, when children should have a check-up every six months.

Parents are advised to take their children to the dentist when their first milk teeth appear.

Professor Michael Escudier, dean of the FDS, said: “No-one wants to see their child in hospital.

“Sometimes this can be unavoidable, but when it comes to admissions caused by tooth decay, most cases are a result of simple preventative steps not being taken.

“Tens of thousands of children every year are having to go through the distressing experience of having teeth removed under general anaesthetic. Reducing sugar consumption, regularly brushing teeth with fluoride toothpaste and routine dental visits will all help ensure this is avoided.”

He said dental visits in the first years of life enabled children, as well as their parents and carers, to learn about good oral health practice.

“These visits also familiarise children with the dental environment, getting them comfortable in a dentist’s chair,” he said. “This instils a first positive impression of dentistry, rather than a potentially scary and unpleasant one if their first visit is because there is a problem or, even worse, if they need to have teeth removed under general anaesthetic.

“It is encouraging that already there are several initiatives to help improve child oral health. However, there is still much to be done, particularly to ensure that we do not leave certain groups of patients behind.”

Judith Cummins said that getting NHS dental treatment can be “life-defining” for children but the financial cost of poor oral health to the NHS was “staggering.”

“The average cost of a tooth extraction is £834,” she said. “Last year alone, almost 40,000 children were admitted to hospital for multiple tooth extractions, which is shocking as it is an entirely preventable condition. Sadly, that situation is getting worse and tooth extractions are up by 25 per cent in recent years.”

The Government insists the situation is improving. A Department of Health spokeswoman said: “Improving oral health in children is a priority for this Government – latest figures show 6.8 million children were seen by a dentist in England over the past year.

“Last month, NHS England began its Starting Well programme that targeted 13 high-need areas to improve dental hygiene in children under five. Further work is also under way to ensure dental services meet the needs of the local population.”

Surprisingly, Bradford is not one of the targeted high-need areas but it has been piloting an initiative to tackle the dental access issues where patients needing urgent treatment could dial 111 to have their needs assessed.

Twenty-five practices took part in the pilot: nine in Bradford City, eight in Bradford Districts and eight in North Kirklees CCG areas.

The pilot ran from January to the end of June but Ms Cummins said the official assessment of the trial had still not been released.

“I urge the Minister to take action; it is long overdue, and inaction is not an option,” she said. “Our children and young people frankly deserve better.”