HUNDREDS of Wigan school children are being hospitalised with rotten teeth.
Shock figures have revealed that 689 youngsters in the borough required hospital treatment last year for tooth decay, making it the most common reason children are admitted to Wigan Infirmary.
And more than half of these were aged between five and nine (350).
According to the dental public health observatory, in 2012/13 in the North West, Wigan had the third highest number of admissions to hospital for dental extractions among youngsters aged between 0-19 behind Manchester (1,223) and Liverpool (911).
Professor Kate Ardern, director of public health at Wigan Council, said: “Although we have made significant progress in improving the health of residents across the borough, we’re aware there is still a way to go to meet our ambitious targets.
“We have a fantastic network of dental practices in the community and between them they come into contact with thousands of residents every day.
“For some of these residents it is the only contact they have with a health professional and these new tools will help to identify those at risk early.
“There is a real opportunity to prevent the onset or development of some conditions such as type two diabetes.
“The Healthy Living Dentistry scheme will help us meet the challenge to continue to increase life expectancy and to respond to a rapidly growing and elderly population.
“There is also a real opportunity to improve oral health, particularly in children and help to tackle tooth decay in the under-fives. As a result, the scheme forms an important part of our overall strategy of prevention.”
Experts have blamed the problem on a dramatic rise in the consumption of fizzy drinks.
Graham Barnby, honorary vice-president of the British Dental Health Foundation, said: “It all relates to the consumption of sugary, fizzy drinks.”
NHS England also urged parents to take action to protect their childrens’ dental health.
“We have some of the lowest rates of tooth decay in the world but these statistics are of course worrying,” the health body said in a statement.
“Parents of young children should discourage them from drinking fizzy drinks as this can lead to tooth decay.”
The rising number of young tooth decay patients has also raised questions about whether dentists should carry out more childhood fillings.