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More than two in five children did not attend an NHS dentist in the last year

30 Aug 2018

More than two in five children (41.4%), aged 0 to17, did not see an NHS dentist in the 12 months to 30 June 2018, according to figures published by NHS Digital today. This is a very small decrease compared to the same period in the previous year, when 41.8% of children did not visit a dentist. 

The Faculty of Dental Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons advises that parents and carers take children to see the dentist as soon as their first teeth appear, and certainly by the time they turn one. Children should then see a dentist at least once every 12 months so that problems like tooth decay can be picked up early.

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

“Frankly, it is unacceptable that more than two in five children did not see an NHS dentist in the last year. Today’s figures serve as a reminder that there’s still a long way to go in improving children’s oral health in the England. Despite free dental care for under 18s and a number of campaigns to educate families about the importance of seeing a dentist at least once a year, progress has been slow.” 

NHS Digital data shows children aged 0-4 were the least likely to attend the dentist in the last year. Nearly two thirds (65.9%) of 0-4 year olds did not attend the dentist in the 12 months up to June 2018. 

Breakdown of non-attendance by age group:

 Age Group   % not visiting NHS dentist in 12 months up to 30 June 2018
0-4 years old 65.9%
5-9 years old  31.5%
10-14 years old  26.3%
15-17 years old 39.7%

Professor Escudier added:

“It’s so important that we get children along to the dentist from a young age. Dental check-ups in early years are as much about getting children comfortable in a dental environment as they are about checking teeth. Many adults are reluctant to visit the dentist because as children they first visited the dentist after, rather than before, problems emerged.  

“Tooth decay is 90% preventable. If we make sure our children visit the dentist regularly, eat less sugar and brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, we can spare them the trauma of cavities or even worse, tooth extractions.

“There have been some significant steps forward in the last year which we hope will result in more children attending the dentist over the next 12 months. NHS England’s Starting Well programme, which was launched in 13 high needs areas, is a very welcome initiative which we’d like to see expanded so more children can benefit. We would also urge Government to use some of the money raised by the Soft Drinks Industry Levy to improve oral health education, so that no child is left behind.”

Notes to editors

1. NHS Digital’s NHS Dental Statistics for England - 2017-18, Annual Report [PAS] 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 6047/6052
For out of hours media enquiries: 07966 486832

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