Almost two dozen children in Worthing had teeth removed in hospital in during the first year of the coronavirus pandemic, new figures show.
The British Dental Association has urged the Government to address a growing backlog of dental care caused by Covid-19, with extractions across England plummeting by more than half.
Office for Health Improvement and Disparities figures show that around 20 children aged 19 or under in Worthing had at least one tooth removed in hospital in 2020-21.
However, this was a significant drop from 55 the year prior, as the pandemic hampered non-Covid activity in hospitals across the country.
It meant around 84 in every 100,000 children in Worthing underwent a tooth extraction last year – down from 231 in 2019-20.
Nationally, 22,549 tooth extractions were completed in 2020-21 – a 58% decrease from 55,137 the year prior.
The Dental Wellness Trust said the drop in extractions is "shocking" and urged the Government to take urgent action to address the backlog.
Dr Linda Greenwall, founder of the oral hygiene charity, said: "Following the pandemic lockdowns, dental practices being forced to close and children consuming food and drinks packed with excessive sugar, many are now suffering agonising pain, cannot sleep at night or concentrate at school and end up missing classes."
The BDA said the dramatic reduction in teeth extractions is almost solely down to the pandemic and is not an indication of a change in demand or improving oral hygiene.
Dr Charlotte Waite, chair of the BDA’s England community dental services committee, criticised the Government's inaction, stating that it is yet to offer clarity on the scale of the backlog or a plan of how to tackle it.
Dr Waite also warned variation in teeth extraction rates highlights differing oral hygiene standards across the country, especially between deprived and affluent areas.
"The failure to tackle this backlog will hit those in our most deprived communities the hardest," she added.
"It is the nation's poorest children who will feel the results as they struggle to eat, sleep and study."
Across England, 14,645 children had their teeth removed because of tooth decay in 2020-21, down from 35,190 before the pandemic.
Sheffield had the highest rate of extractions due to decay at 620 per 100,000 children, while Leicester had the lowest at 10.
Across the South East, 58 per 100,000 youngsters had a decaying tooth removed.
The Department for Health and Social Care said it has provided £50 million to fund up to 350,00 additional NHS dental appointments.
It said dentists prioritised vulnerable groups throughout the pandemic and provided free care to the neediest groups, including pregnant women, young people and those on low-income benefits.
A spokesperson said: "We are committed to levelling up dental health across the country."