100,000 extra dental appointments for children promised

11 June 2024

The Labour Party has pledged to tackle the crisis in children’s dentistry by providing extra appointments.

Labour’s Child Health Action Plan will tackle the crisis in children’s dentistry, Labour Party leader Keir Starmer said on June 11, 2024. The plan was announced during a visit by shadow health secretary Wes Streeting in the northeast of England.

This comes as Labour pledges an extra 100,000 urgent and emergency dental appointments for children and the introduction of supervised toothbrushing for three to five-year-olds to tackle the crisis in children’s dentistry.

Figures revealed that the crisis in NHS dentistry under the Conservatives led to 540,000 fewer children seeing a dentist last year than in 2018. Based on current trends, if the Conservatives win another term, there will be five million fewer dentistry appointments over the next five years.

One in six children aged 11 has decaying teeth, with 11,000 11-year-olds reporting they are ashamed to speak because of problems with their oral health.

There are huge inequalities in the state of children’s teeth. A child growing up in Wolverhampton is five times more likely to have decaying teeth than a child in Kensington. 

On top of plans for extra urgent dental appointments, Labour’s NHS waiting lists plan will provide extra hospital appointments, scans, and operations for children every year to beat the Tory backlog.

There are currently 364,000 children on NHS waiting lists for paediatric care, around 150,000 of whom have been waiting more than 18 weeks. Patients should wait no longer than 18 weeks for treatment, but the NHS has missed this target every month since February 2016.

If Labour forms the next government, it has pledged to clear the backlog of patients waiting more than 18 weeks for treatment within five years.

Labour’s plan to beat the backlog includes delivering an extra 100,000 NHS appointments for children at evenings and weekends a year and doubling the number of NHS scanners with new, AI-enabled scanners.

Labour’s dental rescue plan will provide:

  • 100,000 extra urgent and emergency dental appointments a year for children
  • Golden hellos to recruit dentists to underserved areas
  • Supervised toothbrushing for three-to-five-year-olds in areas of the highest in need
  • Reforming the dental contract so everyone who needs an NHS dentist can see one

The plan will cost £109m a year and be paid for by clamping down on tax dodgers and non-doms.

Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary, said, “What a tragic indictment on the state of NHS dentistry under the Conservatives, that children are ashamed to speak because of the state of their teeth.

“Labour will provide an extra 100,000 appointments for children a year and supervised toothbrushing for three-to-five-year-olds, to put a smile back on kids’ faces.”

Eddie Crouch, British Dental Association chair, said, “Supervised tooth brushing can help us shift the dial from drilling and filling to actively preventing dental disease.

“There’s nothing ‘nanny state’ about a tried-and-tested policy that can save children pain and our NHS a fortune. However, ending this crisis requires real reform, underpinned by decent funding. Fixing a failed contract is a bare minimum for any party serious about saving this service.”