Some children waiting over a year for dental extractions

  • Date: 19 July 2023

A BBC report has revealed that children in some areas of England are waiting up to 18 months on average for teeth extractions under general anaesthetic.

Data obtained by the Liberal Democrats from the NHS Business Services Authority and shared with BBC News reveals more than 12,000 under-18s were on a waiting list for assessment or treatment at community dental service (CDS) providers.

Tooth decay is the most common reason six- to 10-year-olds are admitted to hospital and more than 42,000 teeth were extracted from under-19s in 2021-22, costing the NHS an estimated £81m.

The BBC also reports that Office for Health Improvement and Disparities analysis reveals a gap in decay-related extractions for under-19s in different regions in England. In the 2021-22 financial year Yorkshire and the Humber had the highest rate of at 378 per 100,000 and East Midlands the lowest at 71 per 100,000.

A Department of Health and Social Care official told the BBC: "We are working to improve access to NHS dental care - investing more than £3bn a year into dentistry - and the number of children seen by NHS dentists rose by 43.6 per cent last year.

"We have increased the funding practices receive for urgent care, to encourage dentists to provide more NHS treatments and we're also taking preventative measures to improve children's oral health, such as expanding water-fluoridation schemes - which can significantly reduce the number of children experiencing tooth decay. Further reforms are planned for this year."

But the BDA said yearlong waiting times are nothing new and reflect systemic failures in government policy, the ongoing impact of access problems and huge bottlenecks across all parts of NHS dental services.

British Dental Association Chair Eddie Crouch said: "Yearlong backlogs pre-date COVID, because 'prevention' has been little more than a buzzword. It's a perfect storm. Dentists are losing the battle to nip these problems in the bud, and struggle for theatre space when extractions are the only option.

"Ministers have been offered a blueprint for reform. They have a moral responsibility to use it."

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