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Nearly 6 in 10 children aged one to four did not see an NHS dentist last year

21 Feb 2019

Nearly 6 in 10 children (57.7%), aged one to four years, did not see an NHS dentist in 2018 according to analysis of NHS Digital data by the Faculty of Dental Surgery (FDS) at the Royal College of Surgeons.


The FDS recommends that parents and carers should register children with the dentist as soon as their first teeth appear and schedule their first check-up by the age of one. Following that children should see the dentist at least once every 12 months, in line with guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.


Overall, 41.4% of children, aged zero to seventeen years, did not attend an NHS dentist appointment last year. 32.7% of five to nine years didn’t see an NHS dentist and 27.6% of ten to fourteen years old didn’t see an NHS dentist during the year. 


Responding to today’s figures, Professor Michael Escudier, Dean of the Faculty of Dental Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons said:


“It’s disappointing that nearly 6 in 10 one to four years olds did not see an NHS dentist last year. Children who experience early childhood tooth decay are much more likely to develop subsequent problems, including an increased risk of further decay in both their baby and permanent teeth. This is partly because extensive damage to the baby teeth can cause abscesses that harm the permanent teeth developing inside the gums.


“It’s so important that a child’s first interactions with the dentist are for simple check-ups rather than more serious treatment. Just getting a child into the habit of opening their mouth for a dentist to look at their teeth is useful practice for the future. If children only visit the dentist for the first time once they have a problem, the experience can cause fear and lead to poor dental attendance throughout their lives. Therefore, FDS strongly advises that children have their first check-up before they turn one.


“We are calling for supervised tooth brushing sessions to be introduced in nurseries and primary schools across England, as similar initiatives have already been successful in improving children’s oral health in Scotland and Wales.”

Notes to editors

  1. NHS Dental Statistics for England Second Quarterly Report 2018-19 is published here:   
  2. The Faculty of Dental Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons of England is committed to enabling dentists and specialists to provide patients with the highest possible standards of practice and care.
  3. For more information, please contact the RCS Press Office

         Telephone: 020 7869 6047/07738005924


         For out of hours media enquiries: 07966 486832


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