UK children are suffering the fallout from dental crisis

The number of procedures carried out in hospitals under general anaesthetic more than halved last year, data from the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities shows. Some 22,549 children had teeth removed in 2020-21, down from 55,137 the year before.

And of that latest total, 14,645 extractions – around 65 percent – were due to decayed teeth and so could have been prevented.

The rest may have been for wisdom teeth, teeth removed for orthodontic reasons or as a result of accident or injury.

Dental leaders said the sharp drop in extractions did not reflect any fall in demand and called for urgent action to tackle the backlog.

Charlotte Waite, of the British Dental Association’s England Community Dental Services Committee, said: “Tooth extractions among children have collapsed but the level of demand has not gone anywhere.

“Covid has left tens of thousands in pain, potentially waiting years for treatment they need. The Government has yet to offer clarity on the scale of the backlog or a credible plan to tackle it.” The figures also showed the proportion of extractions as a result of decay was virtually unchanged from a decade ago.

Children from the poorest areas were three times more likely to have extractions than those from the wealthiest communities.

It is also claimed 12.5 million NHS dental appointments for children had been lost in England since lockdown.

The latest concerns follow alerts that parts of England are “dental deserts” with patchy access to services.

A report from the Association of Dental Groups last week said 2,000 NHS dentists had been lost in 2021.

It estimated that with one full-time dentist providing care for 2,000 people, this could result in more than four million being left without access.

The ADG warns of “looming health crises of mouth cancer and diabetes” and wants workforce reform to address staff shortages.

Neil Carmichael, boss of the ADG, said: “Dental deserts not only stretch across the whole of the East of England but they are emerging in other Red Wall constituencies that the Government wishes to level up.

“Fears of an exodus from NHS dentistry are proving to be founded and the number of NHS dentists working in England is at the lowest level for a decade.”

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