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13 Oct 2017

"Record teeth extractions in under-4s"

A record number of children are having teeth removed before the age of four because of decay, according to the Irish Dental Association (IDA).

IDA vice president Dr Anne Twomey, who said the HSE caters for the oral wellbeing of children "very poorly", believes the situation could be even worse than in England, where baby teeth removals are up 24% in a decade.

She said: "Having teeth extracted can cause so many problems. After they’ve been pulled, the holes close up and when the permanent teeth come down, they can do so in bizarre ways, even through the palate, and often they need significant orthodontistry later in life."

The HSE says 8,601 inpatient dental procedures were carried out on children under 15 in 2012, not counting minor surgical procedures under local anaesthetic and procedures at private dental practices like Pembroke Dental.

The IDA therefore believes the real figure is much higher. Dr Twomey said children should see a dentist when they turn one, when problems can be picked up and prevented from the beginning.

She said: "Often children are only brought to the dentist when they are in pain, as an afterthought, when they’re fighting dreadful infections and going through such pain.

"I had a one-and-a-half-year-old come in to us and all of his teeth, which he had had for less than six months, were decayed and had to be extracted."

In the past decade the HSE has introduced initiatives aimed at improving children’s oral health, including a commitment to fluoridated water, which strengthens the enamel in teeth.

It says it is working on a code of practice for food advertising, and liaising with the food industry to reform and reduce sugar content in processed foods.

However, Dr Twomey said not enough is being done. She told Independent.ie: "Our diet in Ireland has changed beyond recognition since a few decades ago. We consume so much sugar now and often hidden sugars. Many parents don't realise just how much sugar is in their diluted drinks, their children's apple juice and orange juice.

"Follow-on-milks and sugary yoghurts marketed specifically towards children are also large culprits in the increased number of very young kids, sometimes at young as one-and-a-half, having to have their teeth extracted because of decay."

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