Hospitals in England are seeing thousands of very young children each year needing baby teeth removed.
The Faculty of Dental Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons, which compiled the data, blames tooth decay linked to sugary diets.
Figures show there were 9,206 extractions carried out on children aged four and younger between April 2015 and March 2016.
A decade ago, it was closer to 7,400 extractions.
That is a rise of about 24% in the space of a decade – more than you would expect from population growth alone, says the faculty.
However, the total number of extractions for children aged nine or under fell slightly last year, from 34,788 extractions in 2014/15 to 34,003 in 2015/16.
Lead researcher Prof Nigel Hunt said: “When you see the numbers tallied up like this, it becomes abundantly clear that the sweet habits of our children are having a devastating effect on the state of their teeth.
“That children as young as one or two need to have teeth extracted is shocking.
“What is really distressing about these figures is that 90% of tooth decay is preventable through reducing sugar consumption, regular brushing with fluoride toothpaste and routine dental visits.
“Despite NHS dental treatment being free for under-18s, 42% of children did not see a dentist in 2015-16.”
Tooth decay is preventable – largely by limiting sugary food and drink and making sure children visit the dentist regularly, as well as brush their teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
- Brush as soon as your baby gets their first tooth
- Do it twice a day – morning and night – for about two minutes
- Use only a smear of toothpaste if your child is younger than three. Use a pea-sized blob thereafter
- Make sure the toothpaste is lower-strength, containing 1,000ppm fluoride
Public Health England is working with the food and drink industry to cut the amount of sugar children consume from common foods such as breakfast cereals, yoghurts, biscuits and cakes.
A spokesman from the Department of Health said: “These are worrying statistics – which is why we are taking action.
“We are introducing a soft drinks levy, as well as a broader sugar reduction programme, to encourage food and drink companies to reduce the amount of sugar that is in popular products in the first place.”