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Hospital admissions for 5-9 year olds with tooth decay more than double those for tonsillitis

19 Sep 2019

Tooth decay remains the leading reason for hospitals admissions among 5 to 9 year olds, according to data published by NHS Digital today. The number of admissions for tooth decay was more than double those for acute tonsillitis, which is the second highest cause of hospital admissions for 5 to 9 year olds.

Figures for children aged 5 to 9 in 2018-2019 show 25,702 hospital admissions for tooth decay, and 11,811 admissions for acute tonsillitis. The number of admissions for tooth decay has however decreased slightly from 26,111 in 2017-2018 among 5 to 9 year olds. 

Last month NHS Digital data showed almost one in three (31.8%) 5 to 9 year olds did not visit an NHS dentist in the 12 months leading up to 30 June 2019. 

Today’s figures also show:

A number of older age groups have seen an increase in hospital admissions due to tooth decay – compared to 2017-18, admissions increased for 10-14 year olds (from 7,060 to 7,410), 15 year olds (from 783 to 848), 16 year olds (715 to 759), 17 year olds (629 and 640) and 18 year olds (549 to 557).
Admissions due to tooth decay have fallen for 1-4 year olds (from 7,666 in 2017-18 to 6,839 in 2018-19) and under-1s (from 2 in 2017-18 to 0 in 2018-19).

Responding to the figures on admissions to hospital for tooth decay, Professor Michael Escudier, Dean of the Faculty of Dental Surgery, said:

“Today’s figures show a very mixed picture. While it is good news that hospital admissions for tooth decay among the younger age groups have decreased when compared to last year, we’ve seen the number of older children admitted to hospital creep up. The Faculty of Dental Surgery would like to see the Government encourage schools to go sugar free to try and tackle tooth decay in all age groups, but particularly older children. Cancer Research UK has previously estimated that teenagers drink a bathtub full of fizzy drink every year5. 

“It is also worth bearing in mind that tooth decay is almost completely preventable, so the fact there have been over 25,000 hospital admissions for children aged 5 to 9 remains utterly unacceptable. These children will likely be having teeth removed under general anaesthetic – something that should never be taken lightly.

“Supervised tooth brushing schemes in nurseries and primary schools is one way of reaching this age group and teaching them the simple ways they can look after their teeth. We were pleased to see a proposal in the recent Prevention Green Paper to expand these schemes in England, but would like to see them introduced straight away rather than by 2022 as currently planned.  Supervised tooth brushing schemes have been successful in Scotland and Wales, where they have helped to deliver significant improvements in children’s oral health.”


Notes to editors

1. Number of children admitted to hospital due to tooth decay broken down by age group:

   Age 0 Age 1-4  Age 5-9  Age 10-14  15 16  17 18 19 Total
2012-13   2  8,423  24,894  7,526 1,070   943  738  696  686  44978
2013-14  2  8,857  25,965  7,718 1,131  858  771  731  714  46747
2014-15  4  9,480  26,708  7,786 1,124  834  760  695  680  48071
2015-16  4  8,800  25,875  7,249 968  845  790  633  664  45828
2016-17  1  8,281  25,923  7,303 937  795  728  608  648  45224
2017-18  2  7,666  26,111  7,060 783  715  629  549  532   44047
2018-19  0  6,839  25,702  7,410 848  759  640  557  529  43284

2. NHS Digital’s Hospital Admitted Patient Care Activity, 2018-19 is published here: 

3. Figures taking from the “Diagnosis” dataset of Hospital Admitted Patient Care Activity. 

4. Further data on children’s attendance at an NHS dentist is available here: 


6. The Faculty of Dental Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons of England is committed to enabling dentists and specialists to provide patients with the highest possible standards of practice and care.

7. For more information, please contact the RCS Press Office: telephone: 020 7869 6047; email:; for out of hours media enquiries: 07966 486832. 


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