Too few dental visits for toddlers

AROUND 80 per cent of one to two year olds in England did not visit an NHS dentist in the last year despite the fact that dental care for children is free, according new figures collated by the Faculty of Dental Surgery (FDS) at the Royal College of Surgeons.

The figures also show that 60 per cent of children aged one to four did not have a dental check-up in the same period up to 31 March 2017. The Faculty believes that there is "widespread misunderstanding" among parents and some health professionals about when a baby should first visit the dentist. Children should have regular dental check-ups starting from when their first teeth appear at around six months of age, according to accepted guidance.

Over 9,200 tooth extractions were performed in 2015/16 on children aged one to four in hospitals in England. Many of these cases can be attributed to tooth decay which is largely preventable through good oral hygiene.

Professor Nigel Hunt, dean of the FDS, said: "In a nation which offers free dental care for under-18s, there should be no excuse for these statistics. Yet we know from parents we speak to that there is widespread confusion, even in advice given to them by NHS staff, about when a child should first visit the dentist.”