26.05.2024

6.5MILLION kids in England have not seen an NHS dentist for at least a year

Over 6.5million children in England have not been seen by an NHS dentist for at least a year amid a growing access crisis, figures suggest.

The British Dental Association warns access to a dentist has ‘fallen off a cliff’, with some kids now waiting two and a half years for dental surgery under general anaesthetic.

The NHS recommends that adults see a dentist every two years and under-18s at least once a year because their teeth can decay faster.

Tooth decay is the most common reason for hospital admission for young children.

A staggering 30,000 children and young people aged between zero to 19 were admitted to hospital because of tooth decay last year alone.

The British Dental Association warns access to a dentist has ‘fallen off a cliff’, with some kids now waiting two and a half years for dental surgery under general anaesthetic

The British Dental Association warns access to a dentist has 'fallen off a cliff', with some kids now waiting two and a half years for dental surgery under general anaesthetic

Dental surgery is far more expensive than simple regular check ups but parents are finding it ‘almost impossible’ to secure an appointment for their children.

The new research by the House of Commons Library estimated the number of youngsters who were not seen by an NHS dentist in the year to June 2022.

It includes 200,000 children in Kent, 176,000 in Essex, 148,000 in Hampshire and 141,000 in Surrey.

The analysis, commissioned by the Liberal Democrats, also reveals the number of children not being seen by an NHS dentist for a year has increased by over a third since 2019.

Separate figures obtained by the party from NHS trusts through Freedom of Information requests show that some children are waiting over two and a half years for dental surgery under general anaesthetic.

One child was waiting 945 days, or over two and a half years, for dental treatment at Sheffield Children’s Hospital.

The other longest waits were at Frimley Health (two years and 62 days), Warrington and Halton Teaching Hospitals (two years three days), University Hospitals Dorset (720 days) and Barts Health NHS trust (700 days).

Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey said: ‘It is disgraceful that millions of children are going without the dental care they need, while others are waiting years in pain for treatment.

‘These figures must act as a wake-up call. We need a rescue plan now to ensure families across the country can get an NHS dentist appointment when they need one.’

The Liberal Democrats are calling for an emergency rescue plan for NHS dentistry including spending the estimated £400million of funding that went unspent in the last financial year to boost the number of appointments.

It is also calling for additional resources for mobile dental clinics to visit schools and the removal of VAT on children’s toothbrushes and toothpaste.

Liberal Democrat MP Wera Hobhouse, who commissioned the research, commented: ‘We know that regular dentist appointments are crucial to prevent tooth decay among children.

‘But for far too many parents, getting an NHS dentist appointment for your child has become almost impossible.

‘It just shows this Conservative government has run our local health services into the ground.’

The British Dental Association has warned oral health inequality among the young is set to widen, with the lack of access disproportionately impact on lower income families.

Data obtained by the professional body under Freedom of Information laws indicates over 15million appointments for children have been lost since lockdown, which is well over a year’s worth of dentistry in normal times.

In March, the first oral health survey of five-year-olds published since lockdown showed there have been no improvements in decay levels and a widening gap between rich and poor.

Some 23.7 per cent of five-year-old children in England had experience of obvious dentinal decay, which is a marginal increase on the previous survey of five-year-olds in 2019, where figures stood at 23.4 per cent.

Last week the UK government pledged to develop a ‘recovery plan’ just minutes ahead of the Department of Health and NHS England giving evidence to the Health and Social Care Committee inquiry into the crisis in NHS dentistry.

The BDA described the last-minute announcement as ‘reeking of desperation’.

The BDA has slammed failure by government to take forward longstanding pledges to consult on the expansion of supervised brushing programmes in schools and nurseries, and to act on pledges to expand water fluoridation.

Both policies would pay for themselves owing to reduction in treatment need among children, it adds.

Eddie Crouch, chair of the BDA, said: ‘Access to dentistry has fallen off a cliff. We’re losing the ability to nip problems in the bud, and the results are frankly devastating.

‘A preventable disease remains the number one reason for hospital admissions among young children, and things are set to go from bad to worse.

‘Kids in our most deprived communities will be hit the hardest while government sits on the side-lines.’

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