Kids Wait Months for Dental Treatment in Scotland

Dentistry Today


As many as 400 children in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde regions of Scotland with extensive tooth decay are on a list for treatment including extractions that could keep them waiting for up to 6 months. In Forth Valley, Highland, Dumfries, and Galloway, waiting times range from 12 weeks to 6 months as well. The British Dental Association (BDA) says these delays are caused by decreased hospital funding and theater time.

“Six months is a lifetime for children in pain and distress to have to wait for urgent dental treatment,” said Pat Kilpatrick, director of BDA Scotland. “The impact of having rotten, septic teeth on a child’s health, well-being, and development cannot be underestimated. Their symptoms are not confined to the mouth, as it can also affect their speech and growth, not to mention their confidence and ability to socialize with their peers and family.”

According to the National Dental Inspection Program, 69% of 5-year-olds have no obvious signs of tooth decay. However, health disparities persist as only 55% of children living in the most economically deprived areas of Scotland are free of tooth decay, compared to 82% of children living in the least deprived regions. In 2015 and 2016, 7,944 children were admitted to hospitals for dental extractions.

“The longer these children have to wait, the more likely they are to develop an infection or abscess. And in the meantime, they may have to take repeat courses of antibiotics to alleviate symptoms, which is anything but best practice and could increase the risk of antimicrobial resistance,” said Kilpatrick. 

The BDA does report that Scotland’s recent Childsmile program is having a positive impact. Health visitors meet with parents to provide oral health education and products, along with help in accessing care. Also, all 3- and 4-year-olds are eligible for daily supervised toothbrushing at school, free oral hygiene products, and additional education. Information for parents is available on the Childsmile website as well. Still, the BDA says greater efforts are necessary.  

“While Scotland has made some progress in improving children’s dental health, much more still needs to be done, and this is no excuse for neglecting those vulnerable children most in need of dental care,” Kilpatrick said. “Funding to free up theater space for the care of these children must be prioritized now.”

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