Research shows sharp rise in hospital admissions for children's dental care

April 10, 2009

Researchers from Peninsula Dental School and the UCL Eastman Dental Institute have used data from the Hospital Episodes Statistics resource to identify a marked increase in the number of hospital admissions for children with caries and other dental conditions, between 1997 and 2006.

The study, which is to be published in the British Dental Journal on 11th April 2009, revealed that there were 517,885 NHS 'episodes of care' for children with dental conditions in the nine-year period. Of these, over half were for dental caries and 80 per cent involved extractions.

There was a year-on-year increase in the number of episodes during the period covered by the statistics, averaging out at 29,676 admissions a year - most of which would have required a general anaesthetic. Extractions for caries rose by 66 per cent between April 1997 and March 2006.

The increase in the number of general anaesthetics for children and dental treatment goes contra to desired best practice and may put children at risk - general anaesthetic in children is at best unpleasant, at worst potentially life threatening.

The research team emphasises that further investigation into the reasons why more children are presenting at hospital for dental treatment is needed, but suggested reasons include: the move post-2000 away from the delivery of general anaesthetic to children in the sector to the secondary care setting; and a possible reduction in restorative care provided for children in the primary care sector, either through lack of training, inadequate recompense or the failure of children and their parents to attend appointments.

One key finding of the research was the huge difference in instances of dental caries and disease in children from different socioeconomic backgrounds. Twice as many treatments were provided to children in the most deprived sector of society compared with those from the most affluent. Children in more affluent areas were 33 per cent less likely to present as a dental care emergency than those living in more deprived areas, and they were 75 per cent less likely to develop caries than their less well-off counterparts.

David Moles, Professor of Oral Health Services Research at Peninsula Dental School, commented: "The findings of our study are very worrying - one poor child was admitted to hospital for extractions on seven separate occasions in the nine-year period of the statistics. If rates of caries and other dental infection are steady, why is there such a marked increase in the number of children being admitted to hospital for dental treatment? And why is it that more and more children are being electively admitted to hospital for extractions? Clearly these questions need to be answered in order to cut the number of admissions, improve dental care for children and ultimately reduce the financial burden to the NHS."

Dr. Paul Ashley, Head of Paediatric Dentistry at the UCL Eastman Dental Institute, added: "Two aspects of the study are particularly worrying - the rise in the number of general anaesthetics being given to children, and the widening gulf in dental health between social classes. General anaesthetic can be fatal to children, which is why post-2000 the administration of general anaesthetic to children was moved from the primary care sector to secondary care, where there is back-up should anything go wrong. Priority must be given to research that examines the reasons why the issues highlighted by our study occur, and this is to be our next step."

Source: The Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry

Related Stories

Recommended for you

The role of dosage in assessing risk of hormone therapy for menopause

July 27, 2017
When it comes to assessing the risk of estrogen therapy for menopause, how the therapy is delivered—taking a pill versus wearing a patch on one's skin—doesn't affect risk or benefit, researchers at UCLA and elsewhere ...

Blowing smoke? E-cigarettes might help smokers quit

July 26, 2017
People who used e-cigarettes were more likely to kick the habit than those who didn't, a new study found.

Brain disease seen in most football players in large report

July 25, 2017
Research on 202 former football players found evidence of a brain disease linked to repeated head blows in nearly all of them, from athletes in the National Football League, college and even high school.

Why you should consider more than looks when choosing a fitness tracker

July 25, 2017
A UNSW study of five popular physical activity monitors, including Fitbit and Jawbone models, has found their accuracy differs with the speed of activity, and where they are worn.

Safety of medical devices not often evaluated by sex, age, or race

July 25, 2017
Researchers at Yale and the University of California-San Francisco have found that few medical devices are analyzed to consider the influence of their users' sex, age, or race on safety and effectiveness.

Dog walking could be key to ensuring activity in later life

July 24, 2017
A new study has shown that regularly walking a dog boosts levels of physical activity in older people, especially during the winter.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.