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Children ‘suffering needlessly’ because of poor oral health

The Oral Health Foundation has launched an appeal for a major overhaul of dentistry, saying that many British children are “suffering needlessly” because of poor oral health


Many British children are “suffering needlessly” because of poor oral health, a charity has said.

With more than 33,000 under-tens being admitted to hospital to have their decayed teeth removed in just one year, the Oral Health Foundation claim the UK is facing a “dental health crisis”.

The charity is calling for the government to “make a major overhaul of dentistry” to ensure there is a focus on prevention in the UK.

Last week the British Dental Association (BDA) claimed patients are missing out on preventive care, because dentists are being forced to chase “senseless” targets and therefore are providing more curative treatments.

President of the Oral Health Foundation, Janet Goodwin, said: “It is absolutely heart-breaking to witness what we are currently experiencing in the UK, to have so many children suffering needlessly due to poor oral health is appalling, something is fundamentally wrong and changes must be made urgently.

“We are appealing for a significant change in how the government approaches dentistry to ensure there is a committed focus on prevention and education so we can help stop problems in their tracks.

“We are waiting with baited breath on the new NHS contract for dentists, which the government have taken far too long to implement.

Sara Hurley, Chief Dental Officer, England, responded saying: “It’s really disappointing that even though people understand the impact of a sugary diet so many children have advanced tooth decaya highly preventable disease.

“In England children and young people drink more sugary soft drinks than anywhere else in Europe and we are also creating a legacy of obesity and significant health problems. If we are to get serious about tackling this then prevention is the key. 

“As well as supporting parents and carers to reduce sugar in their children’s diet and ensuring regular tooth brushing with a fluoride toothpaste, parents are advised to bring their young children to dental practices as soon as the first tooth appears. 

“With regular visits for advice, prevention and earlier intervention we can avoid the need for general anesthetic for the removal of teeth that are beyond repair.”

A BDA poll found that 93% of dentists report that chasing government targets is “limiting their ability to care for high-needs patients who require complex or repeat treatment”.

Of the 1,245 NHS dentists in England and Wales surveyed, 83% said the current system is holding them back from performing preventive work.

A Department of Health spokesman said: “We agree with the BDA that the dental contract needs an update – that is why we are radically changing NHS dentistry, so that dentists will be paid for keeping the nations’ teeth healthy, as well as treating problems as they arise.

“We are working with the BDA to make sure that the new contract allows dentists to give patients the best possible care.”

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