NHS: Millions of children cannot get a dentist appointment - and it's even worse for adults
One political party has called for an "emergency rescue plan" for NHS dentistry.
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Millions of children in England were not seen by an NHS dentist last year, new figures show.
Data obtained by the Liberal Democrats show that 4.4m children in England were not seen by an NHS dentist in the year to June 2023.
This equates to 39 per cent of all children. The figures, from the House of Commons Library, show that in the east of England only half of children have seen an NHS dentist in the last year.
The data does not show the proportion of children who have seen a private dentist during this time period. The nhs.uk website says children should see a dentist at least once a year.
It says adults can wait up to two years between dentist visits if they have good oral health.
The figures show that more than half (51.2 per cent) of adults have not been seen by an NHS dentist in the past two years. The Liberal Democrats have called for an “emergency rescue plan” for NHS dentistry.
“Every parent knows how important it is to ensure that their children can see a dentist when they need to,” Liberal Democrat deputy leader and health spokeswoman Daisy Cooper said.
“Leaving children in pain can disrupt their eating, sleeping and learning. The fact that ministers are failing to deliver this is completely unacceptable. This has to act as a wake-up call for the government. A rescue package for dentistry is urgently needed.
“That means reforming NHS dentistry to boost the number of appointments, supervised teeth cleaning in schools and childcare settings and removing VAT on children’s toothbrushes and toothpaste.”
Commenting on the figures, British Dental Association chairman Eddie Crouch said: “Our youngest patients are already paying the price for a crisis made in Westminster.
“These access problems are the result of political choices. Every political party needs to wake up and offer a plan of action, otherwise this service won’t have a future.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We are making progress to boost NHS dental services and the number of children seen by NHS dentists rose by 43.6 per cent last year. Compared to the previous year, 1.7 million more adults and 800,000 more children are receiving NHS dental care.
“We fund more than £3bn of NHS dentistry a year and are taking preventative measures to improve children’s oral health, such as expanding water fluoridation schemes. We have also announced plans to increase dental training places by 40 per cent and recently launched a consultation to better utilise the skills of dental hygienists and therapists.
“Further measures to improve access and increase the number of NHS dentists through our dental recovery plan will be set out shortly.”