Sameer Patel on Sky News 2016


The cost of removing decayed teeth in children has jumped by 61% since 2011 to £35m a year. More than 100 such operations take place every day in hospitals in England alone. Joining us now is dentist Dr Sameer Patel.

Sky: This is a heavy cost and not a pleasant experience for the children and parents concerned.

Dr Sameer: The cost is one thing, but it’s the cost to the child and the trauma that it puts that child through that’s another. Moving on, it’s not great for preventing dental issues in the future and lowers confidence in the dental profession as well; it’s not just a financial cost.

Sky: What are they attributing this to? Is it the usual bogey man of too many sugary drinks? There will be an element of parents not nagging their children to brush their teeth enough presumably?

Dr Sameer: Yes, I think there’s a little bit of blame culture that we need to just sort out. Is it the parents? Is it the profession? Is it the knowledge that we give in school? And I think it’s probably a combination of everything.

It’s interesting that earlier on you mentioned hidden sugars and I think that’s paramount for what’s happening at the moment. There are so many hidden sugars in what we eat and what we need to do is limit sugar consumption to meal times. The more sugar we are exposed to, the more bacteria can convert that to acid and then the decay process starts. Even if you’re having a sweet after your meal, or a sugary drink that’s OK, but we need to keep sugar to mealtimes.

Any anxiety that parents have towards dentistry, really needs to be kept away – keep taking your child to the dentist so they can develop a relationship with their dentist. Therefore, if any treatment needs to be done, it can be done at a local level, very simply, and it doesn’t cascade out of control. Because what we’re talking about here is multiple teeth being taken out for young children. And that’s their start, or maybe their first experience of dentistry, and I think that’s really tough for them.

Sky: We’re talking about 100 operations taking place every day in English hospitals. Are these full-scale operations with local or even general anaesthetic?

Dr Sameer: Yes, I think the majority of these are general anaesthetic and we know the side effects and we’re exposing our children to a general anaesthetic and it’s really cruel for everybody – not only the cost that we spoke about initially, but for the child and for the parent.

We need to put preventative measures in place. One of the things I do for my daughter is say she’s only allowed sweets one day a week. It’s critical to minimise the sugar intake. We must introduce our children to water and don’t give them the option of fizzy drinks or squashes, because that’s the continual presence of sugar on the teeth and that will lead to the decay. So stick to water – at least we’re then restricting the amount of sugar within our drinks.

Sky: Do you feel that some parents erroneously work on the basis that ‘it’s only the milk teeth, the proper ones will come through and then we’ll look after them’.

Dr Sameer: Yes, and by then the hard lesson has been learnt and I don’t think that’s the right way to go. It’s the training teeth, it’s the way we learn to look after our teeth. And if we introduce bad habits and sugary preferences in children, I think it’s very difficult for them to then come into adult teeth and change their habits.

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