THE number of preschoolers in NSW having to have mouthfuls of rotten teeth removed is soaring.

Tooth decay and cavities are the most prevalent health problem in the state and as children’s diets worsen in the grip of the obesity epidemic more and more youngsters are being forced to have teeth removed.

Figures from NSW Health reveal the frequency of hospitalisations for removal and restoration of teeth caused by dental cavities or decay has significantly increased in the past 13 years.

In 2014-15, the rate of children aged 0 to 14 years undergoing the surgery was 402.5 per 100,000 population.

Rates are highest among 5 to 14 year olds but the surgeries are also plaguing younger children, with a rate of 343.5 per cent 100,000 population in 0 to 4 year olds.

It marks an alarming jumping from 2001-02, when the rate for all children was just 300 per 100,000 population.

Australia Dental Association NSW branch president Dr Sabrina Manickam said dental conditions caused the greatest number of preventable hospitalisations in children and parents had to act to stop the rot.

“I have seen it many times when kids need all their teeth removed. The youngest I had was three years old,” Dr Manickam said. “I can’t blame parents for not understanding but once they have the knowledge they need to make decisions that make dental health the priority.”

About 40 per cent of children in NSW aged 5-6 have untreated dental decay or have experienced dental disease.

Dr Manickam is a dentist in Orange, in rural NSW, and said it was “devastating” to see the problem in children under 5 years old, with poor diet often the cause.

“It’s the frequency of sugar and it can vary from sugary breakfast cereals that target kids to beverages like chocolate milk and soft drinks and coke,” she said.

“I’ve seen cordial in the kid’s bottle, fruit juice in the bottle and I have seen coke in the bottle — that can never be justified.”

She said mothers were now being told to wipe their baby’s teeth after they consumed formula or breast milk as an extra layer of protection against rot cause by sugar.

Dr Manickam said during surgery children had to be put under general anaesthetic so they didn’t develop a fear of the dentist.

“We don’t want to see these rates continue to increase. It’s all completely preventable.”