Children’s tooth decay is being either ignored or badly treated as a result of a system of ‘poor care’ and ‘supervised neglect’.
That’s according to Monty Duggal, the head of paediatric dentistry at the NHS’s Leeds Dental Institute.
Writing in the Faculty Dental Journal, Duggal criticises dentists and parents who believe problematic first teeth can be left to drop out naturally.
He condemns non-intervention as ‘wrong and unjustifiable’.
He writes: ‘We must ensure that those children who still get caries do not suffer further from the provision of poor care and its consequences.
‘Specialists in hospitals treat children on a daily basis with severe oro-facial infections caused by poor restorations, placed with a disregard for good restorative principles or a non-interventionist keep under observation approach.
‘Hospital paediatric dental services across the UK are replete with children referred by general dental practitioners for pain due to untreated or inadequately treated caries in the primary dentition.’
That workload shows that the current neglect of children’s teeth ‘has serious cost implications’ for the NHS, he adds.
Monty Duggal sees 10-15 children a week, aged between three and eight, with severe toothache from several decayed teeth.
Most are from the most deprived estates in Leeds.
He blames the NHS’s way of funding dentists for producing ‘supervised neglect’ of children’s teeth, suggesting the system ‘fails to recognise the increased treatment needs of such children’ and ‘includes economic disincentives to the provision of such intervention’.
• Professor Duggal is a consultant and head of paediatric dentistry at Leeds dental institute. He has published more than 65 research papers in international scientific journals.