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U.S. Children Undergoing Tooth Extractions at an Alarming Rate

Wallis, Laura

AJN, American Journal of Nursing: October 2014 - Volume 114 - Issue 10 - p
doi: 10.1097/
In the News

The data may be somewhat misleading.



The British press has been widely reporting the findings of a recent National Health Service report that more than 25,000 children ages five to nine years were admitted to the hospital for multiple primary-tooth extractions from April 2013 to April 2014, an increase over 2010 of more than 3,000 children.

Similar reports have appeared in U.S. news in recent years, too, noting increasing numbers of very young children undergoing surgery because of tooth decay. In a 2007 report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that, although decay rates in other age groups were remaining steady or declining, rates of primary-tooth restoration in children two to five years of age were increasing. It's possible, though, that young children aren't in fact experiencing greater rates of decay but that access to dental treatments has increased.

Jonathan D. Shenkin, expert spokesperson on pediatric dentistry for the American Dental Association and clinical associate professor of health policy and pediatric dentistry at Boston University, points out that there has been a large increase in trained pediatric dentists in many communities, which has led to better diagnostic capabilities and more aggressive early treatment.

“We're catching kids earlier now,” he told AJN, “and with young kids [who may not be amenable to in-office dental treatments], more dentists are recommending that treatments get done in the operating room.”

Of course, emphasizing primary preventative care can stop decay before aggressive treatments like surgery are needed. For health care providers, this means urging parents to begin taking their children to a dentist at one year of age and to use fluoride toothpaste as soon as the first tooth appears, rather than waiting until age three or four.—Laura Wallis

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Shenkin JD J Public Health Dent. 2011;71(1):1–5
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