A Haworth dentist is leading a national lobby to improve children’s dental health as he described the situation as reaching ‘tragic levels’.
A letter from Dr. Tony Kilcoyne published in a daily newspaper and branding NHS dentistry in England as “unfit for purpose” was signed by more than 400 other dentists UK wide.
And it likened services in some parts of England akin to third world countries, saying it was a “disgrace” that the most likely reason for children under ten to be admitted to a hospital was because of rotten teeth.
Dr. Kilcoyne said: “We are supposed to be a first world country but the problem has got so bad we now have a charity, Dentaid, which normally provides treatment in developing countries, opening an emergency service for poor and vulnerable people in West Yorkshire.”
He said the need for the charity showed up the lack of a proper national dental strategy and service in England and said what was needed was a large-scale media campaign with local focuses to get the message out about preventing tooth decay from as early as birth.
According to NHS figures, 48 per cent of the adult population and 31 per cent of children in England have not been to a dentist for two years with about 62,500 people, including 46,400 children, needing hospital treatment every year as a result of decay.
Bradford and Airedale district has the poorest oral health in the region, with 46 per cent of five-year-olds having tooth decay, compared with 33.6 per cent across Yorkshire and the Humber.
However, all primary schools in the district have now been invited to sign up for varnishing pupil’s teeth with fluoride as part of a decay-busting initiative.
In 2014, three Bradford children aged under five were having teeth pulled out in the hospital every week. Official statistics showed 462 children in the city were admitted to hospital with dental issues over a three-year period.
Dr. Kilcoyne said: “More than 90 per cent of all dental diseases could be prevented but current figures show that the problem of tooth decay has reached tragic levels. It was bad last year; it will be bad again this year and worse next year unless something is done to improve things. The NHS is only interested in seeing the volume of traffic passing through our surgery doors. We have just seconds to talk to patients about prevention. The letter has come from the frustration of 400 dentists, not just me because we know the value of prevention.
“People can’t get to see a dentist because of all the people overloading limited services with tooth decay. People are going to GPs with abscesses. A properly planned media campaign would ultimately save the NHS money.”
A spokesman for NHS England said 93 per cent of people got an NHS dental appointment when they wanted one in the last 24 months but Dr. Kilcoyne disagreed. “To improve dental services in England, there needs to be education on prevention. It’s not rocket-science. It is common sense but we have to help the public help themselves. People should not have to wait to see a dentist to get this kind of information.”
He said most parents are caring and are devastated when they get the news their children’s teeth have holes because of something they could have avoided. “Pain is a late sign of trouble. Sugar attacks will always win in the decay stakes even if a child brushes day and night.” – Kathie Griffiths, T&A