Experts at a dental hospital have launched a blistering attack on the quality of care given to children by local dentists – describing it as unacceptable.
Advice on preventing decay is ‘not being adequately delivered’, according to the paediatric dentistry team at the University of Liverpool Dental Hospital and Alder Hey Children’s Hospital.
As a result, large numbers of local children are being admitted to hospital with dental caries – ‘a preventable disease, with the associated financial, emotional and health costs’.
The Liverpool team notes that 34.8% of five-year-olds in the north west have dental decay, but only 8.5% of decayed teeth are treated – the biggest treatment gap in the country.
Furthermore, 11.7% of young children who were given a general anaesthetic at Liverpool Dental Hospital in 2012 had previously had the same operation there.
And only one third of parents of children receiving their first general anaesthetic said they had ‘received preventive dental advice in primary dental care’.
The Liverpool Dental Hospital wrote: ‘We do not currently have any concerns about accessibility to primary dental care for children in our region.
‘However, we do have grave concerns about the quality of both preventive and interventive care that children receive when they access primary dental care in our region.
‘Within primary care, preventive dental advice is not being adequately delivered and interventive care is often below a standard that is acceptable and is, as a result, failing to prevent the need for large numbers of our local child population to be admitted to hospital for treatment of a preventable disease, with the associated financial, emotional and health costs.’
The verdict comes in written evidence to the recent inquiry by the Commons Health Select Committee into the high rates of dental caries in children in many areas.
The dental hospital calls for extra ‘incentives’ to improve primary care dentistry in areas with the worst records for decay in children.
Meanwhile, in its evidence, the Dental Schools Council raised the alarm over a lack of ‘training to ensure that individuals are competent to manage children’s oral health’.
It suggested some students may have ‘inadequate experience of paediatric dentistry due to a lack of commissioning of this service’.
And it wrote: ‘At present, there are some differences between dental schools, but this could worsen unless a national commissioning framework with explicit training requirements is adopted.’
The Royal College of Surgeons told the committee that dental statistics should measure whether children have been to an NHS dentist ‘in the previous 12 months, rather than 24 months’.
It said: ‘This would be in line with NICE [Nation Institute for Clinical Excellence] guidance on dental recall.
‘Parents should be encouraged to take their children for dental checks as soon as the child has teeth (usually before one year of age) and all children should have had a dental check-up, coupled with appropriate preventive dental advice, by the time they are two.’
The committee did not produce a report, because parliament was wound up for the election, but its Conservative chairwoman, Sarah Wollaston, described dental caries among children as ‘staggering’.