DENTISTRY bosses in the town are urging locals to try and prevent tooth decay and gum disease after the extent of oral health woes in Barnsley were revealed.

As part of the month-long campaign, health experts across South Yorkshire are supporting the Oral Health Foundation charity in raising awareness of the importance of having a healthy mouth and smile.

It comes after more than 370 hospital admissions were made in Barnsley for children’s tooth extractions over the latest 12-month period - 315 of which were for tooth decay.

David Fothergill, chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “These stark figures reveal that a lack of access to affordable dentistry is having a worrying impact on the state of children’s teeth.

“The fact that, due to the severity of the decay, on average 119 operations are taking place each day to remove decaying teeth in children and teenagers is concerning and also adds to current pressures on our health service.

“Untreated dental care remains one of the most prevalent diseases affecting children and young people’s ability to speak, eat, play and socialise.”

Separate figures from the government’s annual Oral Health Survey of year six children showed 16.2 per cent had experienced tooth decay, with those impacted experiencing decay in at least two teeth on average.

In Barnsley, about 29.6 per cent of ten to 11 year olds had experienced tooth decay.

Eddie Crouch, chairman of the British Dental Association, said ministers have ‘failed to grasp that decay and deprivation go hand in hand’.

He said: “This government likes to talk about prevention but has offered nothing. It has promised access for all but looks set to just throw money at target seats in rural England.

“Our youngest patients are continuing to pay the price.”

But it’s hoped the campaign will have an impact on residents’ oral hygiene.

Anthony Fitzgerald, executive director for primary care at NHS South Yorkshire, added: ““Oral health improvement programmes are key in supporting our local communities by delivering key messages and support at different levels and across a range of services delivery care and support to our local people.”

Parents are being encouraged to ensure that their children brush all surfaces of every tooth, reduce the amount of sugar they intake - whilst also visiting the dentist regularly.

Dr Sarah Robertson, consultant in dental public health, said: “Children in South Yorkshire have some of highest levels of tooth decay in the country.

“By the time they are five years old, 29 per cent of children across South Yorkshire - compared with 24 per cent for England - have tooth decay.

“The most deprived communities in Yorkshire and the Humber have levels of tooth decay which are more than four times higher than those in the least deprived areas.

“The pain and infection affects sleep, children miss nursery and school and parents have to take time off work to care for them.

“Tooth decay is the most common reason for a five to nine year old to have to have a hospital admission, and South Yorkshire has the highest levels of hospital tooth extractions nationally.

“Tooth decay is a huge problem - yet we know it is largely preventable.”