In Plymouth, data shared by the broadcaster shows that 600 children had a combined 4,000 teeth extracted. At one local primary school, teachers discovered that 50 per cent of their pupils had never seen a dentist. This is resulting in children having to completely change their diets, moving off solid foods and relying solely on liquids such as soups and smoothies.
The BDA says Plymouth is far from an outlier, with access problems now gripping every corner of the country.
Tooth decay remains the number one reason for hospital admissions among young children. Rates for extractions among children and young people living in England’s most deprived communities are nearly 3.5 times that of those living in the most affluent.
The BDA has been pressing the government to deliver the recovery plan promised in April. In July, the Health and Social Care Committee concluded a damning inquiry, describing the state of the service as "unacceptable in the 21st century", and set out recommendations real, urgent reform. The government’s response to the inquiry has been overdue since September 14, 2023.
The recent reshuffle and resignation of dental minister Neil O’Brien MP leaves the much-delayed recovery plan for NHS dentistry in limbo. However, Neil has since publicly stated that if “fiscal headroom” exists in the Autumn Statement, funds should be directed to NHS dentistry.
Eddie Crouch, British Dental Association chair, said, “We’re seeing children living off soup and smoothies thanks to government failure to get to grips with an access crisis.
“It’s as tragic as it is preventable. With the collapse in access, many of these young kids have never had an NHS appointment.
“Dentists are trained to nip these problems in the bud, but until ministers step up, we’re going to keep seeing scenes that belong in the Victorian era.”