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80% of 1 to 2-year-olds didn’t visit an NHS dentist last year

08 Jun 2017

New analysis by the Faculty of Dental Surgery (FDS) at The Royal College of Surgeons has found that approximately 80% of children between the age of one and two didn’t visit an NHS dentist in the 12 months leading up to March 31st 2017, despite guidance saying children should start dental check-ups when they develop their first tooth[1]. The analysis also found that almost 60% of children aged one to four didn’t have a dental check-up in the same period.

The FDS is warning that there is a widespread misunderstanding among parents, and even health professionals, about when a baby should visit the dentist. NHS dental check-ups for children are free. Official Public Health England guidance states that parents and carers should ensure their child has a dental check-up as soon as their teeth start to appear[2]. Babies tend to get their first teeth at around 6 months[3].

During 2015/16, there were 9,220 cases of tooth extractions performed in hospitals on children aged one to four[4]. This procedure often requires children to receive a general anaesthetic. Many of these cases can be attributed to tooth decay, which the FDS points out is 90% preventable.

Professor Nigel Hunt, Dean of the Faculty of Dental Surgery at The Royal College of Surgeons, 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. Every child should have free and easy access to dental care from the point when their first teeth appear in the mouth. With 9,220 cases of tooth extraction performed in hospitals last year for children aged between one and four, we cannot continue in this state of confusion.

“Many oral health problems are easily preventable through twice-daily brushing sessions with fluoride toothpaste, avoiding sugary drinks and snacks, and regular dental check-ups. The earlier a child visits the dentist, the earlier any potential problems can be picked up, so it is easier to prevent children having to go through the trauma of having their teeth removed under a general anaesthetic.

“Dental check-ups in early years are as much about getting children comfortable in a dental environment as it is about checking teeth. Simply getting a child to open their mouth for a dentist to look at their teeth is useful practice for the future. First impressions are vital if we want children to have a long-term positive impression of dentistry. If a first dental visit results in a stressful, traumatic experience, this could have a serious life-long effect on a child’s willingness to engage in the dental process. Mothers are also entitled to free dental check-ups during pregnancy and the 12 months after they give birth.

“Prevention is always better than cure.” 

Notes to editors

The Royal College of Surgeons of England is a professional membership organisation and registered charity, which exists to advance surgical standards and improve patient care.

For more information, please contact the Press Office:

  4. Hospital Admitted Patient Care Activity, 2015-16 [NS] published by NHS Digital

Telephone: 020 7869 6047/6052
Out of hours media enquiries: 07966 486832

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