NHS England Ramps Up Pediatric Appointments

Dentistry Today


Every day, more than 140 English children—some just a year old—have to go to the hospital to have decayed teeth removed, according to NHS England. Now, the agency is calling on 24,000 dentists across the country to see an additional 70,000 preschool children as part of its Starting Well core program to help young families get into the habit of good dental health by visiting the dentist for free NHS dental care. 

“Taking preschool children to the dentist can prevent the pain of tooth extractions. Regular visits to your dentist from a very early age is key to developing habits that lead to a lifetime of good oral health,” said Sara Hurley, England’s chief dental officer. “The NHS is providing additional support to dentists to help them see more children so that painful and distressing dental operations later in life can be reduced.

All children under the age of 18 and people under the age of 19 who are enrolled in a full-time educational program qualify for free NHS dental treatment, but only about one in 10 children under the age of 2 has had a dental checkup, NHS reports. Experts recommend that all children visit the dentist for their first checkup by their first birthday to prevent tooth decay, which is experienced by a quarter of all 5-year-olds in England, NHS adds. 

Starting Well aims to reduce the numbers of children undergoing general anesthetic and emergency dental treatment for extracting decayed teeth, which currently represents a considerable cost for the NHS. Improved dental health also will lead to fewer missed school days and work days for children and their parents alike since they won’t have to take time off to get the care that’s needed. 

The initiative also will include additional support for dental professionals, including training materials and guidance for caring for young children, as well as a program of communication to encourage the public to get a “Dental Check By One” for babies before their first birthday. Starting Well is currently underway in 13 high-priority areas determined by decay experience at the local level, existing oral health improvement plans, and trends in oral health.

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