Councillors have called for more to be done to tackle “alarming” rates of tooth decay among children in Leeds.
Leeds City Council’s health scrutiny board questioned the public health chiefs over proposals for their five-year oral health promotion plan.
The work examines the barriers young people face to accessing dentists, whether Leeds should have a fluoridated water supply and how more work can be done to raise awareness of the problems.
Research highlighted that the oral health of young people in Leeds is worse than the average for England, with a third of five-year-olds and almost half of 12-year-olds having tooth decay.
It comes months after a documentary uncovered extreme cases of tooth decay in Leeds, with one dentist estimating he removes 7,000 to 10,000 children’s teeth every year.
Coun Peter Gruen, scrutiny board chair, described Leeds’ figures as “alarming”.
An assessment of oral health last year found the average number of decayed, missing or filled teeth in Leeds children was above the national average.
The authority’s director of public health, Dr Ian Cameron, told the scrutiny panel: “I’m pleased you’re concerned and would want to raise awareness but the data we have here is not a surprise, this is what the surveys have said repeatedly.
“It is appalling and has been for many years but we shouldn’t raise awareness in a blaming way.”
When asked about adding fluoride to the city’s water supply to boost dental health, he added: “Is it easy? The answer is no. The water supply is very complex into Leeds and this would need the agreement of water authorities and other local authorities.”
A draft of the oral health promotion plan is due before councillors in September.