According to the National Health Service (NHS), 70.2% of children in England did not see an NHS dentist in 2020. As a result, the number of children admitted to hospitals for tooth decay may rise if access doesn’t improve this year, said the Royal College of Surgeons of England Faculty of General Dentistry (FGD).
The new figures show yet another one of the detrimental impacts that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on children’s health over the past year, the FGD said. While more than six children in 10 saw a dentist in 2019, fewer than three in 10 saw a dentist in 2020.
“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,” said Matthew Garrett, dean of the FGD.
All dental practices had to close during the first lockdown, and although many reopened over the summer, they mainly treated patients with dental emergencies,” Garrett said.
“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,” Garrett continued.
“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,” Garrett said.
“It’s essential for parents to know that dentists are now open. If their child has a tooth pain or has suffered any sort of dental trauma, they will be prioritized. Dental practices are taking all possible precautions to remain COVID-safe,” he said.
“With the backlog in regular checkups, it’s absolutely vital that parents take steps at home to make sure their children’s teeth and gums are looked after,” he said. “This includes brushing regularly with a fluoride toothpaste and reducing the frequency of sugary snacks and drinks.”