'They were black stumps': Babies as young as one hospitalised with tooth decay

There has been a sharp rise in young children needing dental surgery, prompting dentists to remind parents of the importance of good oral health for their kids.

Babies as young as one-year-old are being hospitalised with tooth decay, dentists warn.

"I've taken every tooth out of a child's mouth, and that was a child about three or four," Dr Mark Penrose of the SA Dental Service said.

"I couldn't save them. They were black stumps".

Examples of tooth decay in young children. Source: 7 News
’They were all black stumps,’ Dr Mark Penrose said of one mouth he looked at. Source: 7 News

In the past year, 24 babies under one have required a full anaesthetic to treat decay in South Australia alone, with many getting teeth extracted.

That number rises to 2500 for under-eight year olds, and the rate is rising.

Experts are looking to parents to make sure they ensure good oral health for their children. Source: 7 News

Experts are looking closely at parents, because tooth decay in young children is mostly a preventable issue.

The usual suspects are to blame – not cleaning teeth, consuming sugary drinks and foods, and putting a baby to bed with a bottle of milk.

A quarter of a million South Australian children under 18 are eligible for free dental care. Source: 7 News

Dentists say the cost of visiting them is not to blame, as 250,000 South Australian children under 18 are eligible for free dental care.

Only a third of those eligible, however, are turning up.