Fewer kids visiting dentist

He’s in an ever-shrinking group.

The British Dental Health Foundation is encouraging more parents to take their children to the dentist after figures released indicate that the number of children in England visiting a dentist for a check-up has declined slightly over the past five years.

The figures, published by the NHS Information Centre, showed more than 29 million patients were seen by an NHS dentist in a two-year period ending in June 2011, an increase of one million from 2006. However, over the same period, 7.8 million children were seen by an NHS dentist – 26,000 fewer than in 2006. In Norway, parents are expected to take their children to a dentist once a year. 

Chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter, is encouraged by the overall results, but concerned about the lack of growth in the numbers of children visiting a dentist.

“It is disappointing to see the number of children visiting an NHS dentist has failed to grow over the past five years. Children should be attending the dentist as soon as possible in order for them to develop good oral health habits which they can carry through to adulthood.

“As part of a wider oral health routine, the Foundation has long championed the benefits of both children and adults visiting the dentist for regular checkups. The increase in systemic links between poor oral health and conditions detrimental to your overall health continue to be thrust into the public limelight, and it appears on this evidence more adults than ever before are actively engaging in good oral health practices.”

The figures also revealed an increase in the use of a fluoride varnish for both adults and children, a measure the Foundation believes could lead to better oral health. Studies have shown the benefits of topical fluorides to be particularly beneficial3, while the use of fluoride in protecting against tooth decay is one long supported by the Foundation, and Dr Carter is delighted to see child fluoride varnish treatments rise by more than 55 per cent.

“From my time working in a practice on the outskirts of Birmingham, I saw firsthand the effects fluoride can have. On this occasion it was added to the water supply, but it does make a difference. For over 850 thousand children to be having this treatment, it shows a determination to further improve oral health.”

Around 56.3 per cent of the population have received dental care, a figure Dr Carter hopes will improve in order to keep the nation’s oral health to an acceptable standard.

Dr Carter added: “Although the figure still equates to more than every other person in England having access to an NHS dentist, it is the view of the Foundation that more needs to be done to break down the barriers for everyone. With rising household budgets it is important that people don’t view their dental health as a luxury – it is one you most certainly cannot afford to take for granted.”

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