Only 2.8% of children under the age of one attend an NHS dental practice, a Birmingham University study shows.
For those aged one and under, dental attendance rates increased slightly to 11.7%.
Attendance rates varied considerably, with 3.7% of children one and under in Hackney attending the dentist, compared with 37.6% in South Tyneside.
‘Unexpectedly, more deprived local authorities (LAs) reported higher dental attendance (DA) rates,’ the research says.
‘Although influenced by socio-economic factors, the DA rate was only partially explained by LA deprivation.
‘DA rates were, surprisingly, higher in more deprived LAs.
‘The LAs with the highest levels of deprivation, such as Blackpool, Knowsley and Hull were not amongst those LAs with the lowest DA rates.
‘Nevertheless, Hackney, which had the lowest DA rate was among the 10 most deprived LAs.’
The BDA says the findings are indicative of a failure to offer a joined-up approach to oral health in children.
It also points to a lack of new funding in the government’s Starting Well oral health programme.
Currently around 300 of the 9,000 NHS practices in England are involved in the scheme.
‘Tooth decay is the number one reason young children will end up in hospital, and it won’t be solved with token efforts,’ BDA chair, Mick Armstrong, said.
‘Baby teeth matter, and getting very young kids attending requires joined-up action.
‘Sadly ministers have offered little more than posters to pop up in dental practices.
‘Preaching to the converted will not cut it.
‘We need real engagement in schools and nurseries, and Scotland and Wales are already leading the way.
‘Kids in England deserve better than a second-class service.’
Dental Check by One
CDOs from England, Wales and Scotland launched the Dental Check by One campaign in 2017.
The campaign, from the British Society of Paediatric Dentistry (BSPD), aims to remind parents and guardians of the importance of children seeing a dentist by the age of one.
It will provide an opportunity for a child to start a life of positive dental care and for parents to get advice on how to keep their child’s teeth healthy and strong.
‘Children as young as two and three are being admitted to hospital for extractions under general anaesthetic, which is why we need to reach families early to provide support on prevention,’ Claire Stevens, a consultant in paediatric dentistry and president of BSPD, said.
‘We hope Dental Check by One will raise awareness of looking after children’s teeth from an early age – baby teeth do matter!’