Health experts welcome downward trend in childhood dental extractions under general anaesthetic

Dental public health experts have welcomed findings showing a reduction in the number of reported child dental extractions under general anaesthetic over the last decade. 

A report on the paediatric dental referral patterns in Wales published by Public Health Wales, shows that in 2013/14 8,901 children underwent extractions under general anaesthetic. This fell to 3,362 in 2022/23 following several years of consistent decline. This represents a 62 per cent decrease in the number of children undergoing this invasive procedure over a nine-year period. 

Extractions under general anaesthetic are not without risk and should only be undertaken as a last resort. Poor oral health can lead to tooth decay which if left untreated may require an extraction. Recent studies have shown that the severity of tooth decay is improving at a population level in Wales, but still affects one third of all five-year-old children. 

The report found that more referrals are made for dental extractions under general anaesthetic in areas experiencing higher levels of deprivation. The national Designed to Smile programme aims to reduce these disparities by instilling good oral hygiene practices in children from a young age. NHS Community Dental Services work with early years services, nurseries and schools to help start good habits, with supervised toothbrushing and fluoride varnish visits to help protect teeth against decay.  

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