New dental statistics prompt BDA demand for action

NEARLY 42 per cent of children in England are missing out on free dental care according to new statistics by NHS Digital.

Figures show that 4.9 million children did not attend for a free check-up in the 12 months to June 2017, down by 0.2 per cent on 2016 figures despite NICE guidelines recommending children should be seen by a dentist at least once a year.

Nearly half (48.6 per cent) of adults in England have not see an NHS dentist in the last two years – a total of 21 million – a slight rise on 2016 figures (48.2 per cent).

Polling for the BDA has revealed major gaps in awareness among parents on eligibility for free dentistry, with one in four parents unaware that routine check-ups are free for children aged under 18. In the last Adult Dental Health Survey 26 per cent of respondents reported that the type of dental treatment they opted for had been affected by cost - and almost one-fifth (19 per cent) said they had delayed dental treatment for the same reason.

The BDA believes these figures reflect a "continued failure" by government to deliver a coherent oral health strategy and effective public engagement. The organisation advocates a shift to a "genuinely preventive contract" for NHS dentists in England, and a national programme to tackle decay modelled on successful initiatives in Scotland and Wales, and the anti-obesity campaign Change 4 Life.

Henrik Overgaard-Nielsen, Chair of General Dental Practice at the BDA, said: "The fact nearly 5 million children are missing out on free dental care is nothing short of a national disgrace, but is the logical result of policies from successive governments.

"Tooth decay – a wholly preventable disease – remains the leading cause of hospital admissions for children, but instead of public information campaigns Westminster has offered radio silence."