That’s according to analysis of NHS Digital data by the Faculty of Dental Surgery (FDS).
Almost half (41.4%) of children up to 17 years old didn’t attend an NHS dentist appointment in 2018.
‘It’s disappointing that nearly six in 10 one- to four-year-olds didn’t see an NHS dentist last year,’ Professor Michael Escudier, dean of the FDS, said.
‘Children who experience early childhood tooth decay are much more likely to develop subsequent problems.
‘This includes an increased risk of further decay in both baby and permanent teeth.
‘It’s so important a child’s first interactions with the dentist are for simple check-ups rather than more serious treatment.
‘Just getting a child into the habit of opening their mouth for a dentist is useful practice for the future.’
Last year a child in England had a tooth removed in hospital every 10 minutes, according to Public Health England (PHE).
Around 141 children every day have their teeth removed, which adds up to 60,000 missed days from school.
‘Children’s oral health is so important,’ Steve Preddy, clinical director and dentist for Bupa Dental Care, said.
‘Many parents don’t realise that children should begin seeing their dentist as soon as their first teeth start coming through.
‘As a provider of NHS dentistry, it’s really important we remind parents all children under 18 get free NHS treatment.
‘As do people under 19 in full-time education.
‘Expectant and new mothers also qualify, making it easier for them to fit in appointments with their little ones.’
Supervised brushing sessions
The FDS is calling for supervised brushing sessions to be introduced in nurseries and primary schools around England.
Similar initiatives in Scotland (Childsmile) and Wales (Designed to Smile) claim to have experienced success improving children’s oral health.
‘If children only visit the dentist for the first time once they have a problem, the experience can cause fear and lead to poor dental attendance throughout their lives,’ Professor Escudier continues.
‘Therefore, FDS strongly advises that children have their first check-up before they turn one.’