Nearly 4.5 million children not seen by an NHS dentist in the past year

  • 4.4 million children not seen by an NHS dentist in the last 12 months
  • 22 million adults not seen by an NHS dentist in the past 2 years
  • Lib Dem Health Spokesperson Daisy Cooper visits dentist in Mid Bedfordshire and calls for boost to NHS dentist appointments and a cut to VAT on children’s toothpaste

Over 4.4 million children in England have not been seen by an NHS dentist for at least a year, shocking new figures published by the Liberal Democrats have revealed.

The research, commissioned from the House of Commons Library, estimates the number of children who weren’t seen by an NHS dentist in the year to June 2023, based on the latest data from the health service.

This includes nearly 1 million children in the East of England alone, meaning half of all children in the region have not seen a dentist in the past 12 months. Across the country, almost two in five (38.7%) of children haven’t seen a dentist in the last year.

In Norfolk and Waveney, over one in two (55%) of children hadn’t seen an NHS dentist in the past year, more than anywhere else in the country. Other areas with the most children who hadn’t seen an NHS dentist include South West London (52.5%), Devon (49.2%) and Northamptonshire (49.1%).

The NHS recommends that under-18s see a dentist at least once a year because their teeth can decay faster, compared to two years for adults. Tooth decay is also the leading cause of hospital admissions for children aged 6-10.

Nationally, over half (51.2%) of adults have not been seen by an NHS dentist in the past two years. That equates to nearly 22 million people who went without dental care in the last 24 months. The areas with the most adults who hadn’t seen a dentist in the last two years were Gloucestershire (66.6%), Surrey Heartlands (66.2%), North Central London (64.2%) and Kent and Medway (63.6%).

Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader and Heath Spokesperson Daisy Cooper will today (Tuesday 19 September) visit a dentist in Mid Bedfordshire and call for an emergency rescue plan for NHS dentistry, including spending any funding that has gone unspent in recent years to boost the number of appointments.

The party is also calling for reform of the NHS dental contract to create more appointments as well as the removal of VAT on children’s toothbrushes and toothpaste.

Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader and Health Spokesperson Daisy Cooper said:

This Conservative government has shown a total disregard for every aspect of our health service. Wherever you look, the NHS is crumbling.

Every parent knows how important it is to ensure that their children can see a dentist when they need to. Leaving children in pain can disrupt their eating, sleeping and learning. The fact that Ministers are failing to deliver this is completely unacceptable.

This has to act as a wake-up call for the government. A rescue package for dentistry is urgently needed. That means reforming NHS dentistry to boost the number of appointments, supervised teeth cleaning in schools and childcare settings and removing VAT on children’s toothbrushes and toothpaste.

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