Dentists call on government to tackle child tooth decay crisis

shutterstock_93474835Dentists attending the Local Dental Committees’ annual conference in Manchester (9-10 June) will call on the government to get to grips with its failure to stem the crisis in child tooth decay.

This is in response to the NHS releasing new figures that show that more than 179,000 teeth were removed in children aged nine and under in 2014-15 in dental practices across England.

The British Dental Association (BDA) estimates that the cost to the NHS of removing these is up to £14 million, money that would be better invested in a nationwide prevention scheme, such as Childsmile in Scotland. A similar programme in Wales – Designed to Smile – means that England lags behind in having no national oral health programme to drive improvements in children’s dental health.

These initiatives work to raise parents’ awareness of the importance of tooth brushing and oral health in general, and over time have been shown to reduce the need for fillings and extractions in children. Research shows that dental disease disproportionately affects the most disadvantaged in society.

Promoting good oral health in childhood helps to ensure that benefits continue into adulthood, thereby reducing the risk of decay in permanent teeth.

Healthy teeth

Henrik Overgaard-Nielsen, chair of the BDA’s General Dental Practice Committee, said: ‘We already know that tooth decay is the number one reason why children are admitted to hospital, costing the NHS around £35 million a year.

‘However, a less well known factor until the BDA’s disclosure today is that the vast majority of rotten teeth are removed in dental practices around the country.

‘Why are we carrying out extractions, when we should be saving pain and money by aiming to keep healthy teeth in healthy mouths?’

Around 270 dentists attending the conference will also discuss calls for the government reinvest money that is underspent in some areas to communities with high rates of tooth decay in children.

Although the Department of Health has recently announced details of 10 pilot preventive programmes in England, the BDA is concerned that there is no dedicated funding.

Dentists will also debate developments to reform a much-criticised target-driven dental contract that has been in place since 2006. 

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