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Two thirds of children did not see an NHS dentist last year

By Royal College of Surgeons of England | 2nd March 2021 | News

NHS dental attendance figures published this week show over two thirds of children (70.2%) in England did not see an NHS dentist in the 12 months to 31 December 2020. Dental surgeons are warning the number of children admitted to hospital for tooth decay may rise, if access does not improve this year.

The new figures show yet another of the detrimental impacts the Covid-19 pandemic has had on children's health over the last year. In 2019, over 6 in 10 children under 16 saw a dentist: in 2020, it was less than 3 in 10.

Responding, Mr Matthew Garrett, Dean of the Faculty of Dental Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said:

'While it is not surprising the number of children who saw an NHS dentist dropped so dramatically in 2020, we must improve access this year to avoid long-term damage to children's teeth. All dental practices had to close during the first lockdown, and although many reopened over the summer, they mainly treated patients with dental emergencies.

'We know the pandemic has disproportionately affected children from the poorest families, and worsened health inequalities, and sadly this is also likely to be true in dentistry'.

'Prior to the pandemic, dental decay was the top reason for children aged between 5 and 9 years old to be admitted to hospital in England. We do not want to see a wave of children back in hospital for tooth extractions. It's essential for parents to know that dentists are now open. If their child has tooth pain or has suffered any sort of dental trauma, they will be prioritised. Dental practices are taking all possible precautions to remain Covid-safe.

'With the backlog in regular check-ups, it's absolutely vital that parents take steps at home to make sure their children's teeth and gums are looked after. This includes brushing regularly with a fluoride toothpaste and reducing the frequency of sugary snacks and drinks.'

1. NHS Dental Statistics for England 2020-21, Biannual Report, which gives figures on the number of children who have seen a dentist in the 12 months to 31 December 2020, was published here on Thursday 26 February.

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