Children miss annual dental checks
Two in five children in England are not visiting a dentist every 12 months as recommended by health officials, new figures have revealed.
The number of children seen by an NHS dentist in the 12 months up to March 31 was 7.1 million, equating to 61.4% of the child population, according to the Health & Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC).
Nearly a third (30.6%) of children had not visited in the last two years, the figures show.
The longest time between appointments for children, as recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice), is 12 months.
The HSCIC also released information relating to adults today, which revealed that the number of patients seen by an NHS dentist rose by 40,337 or 0.2% in the first three months of this year compared to the previous quarter, and an increase of 1.7 million since the same period in 2006.
But although numbers have risen, the percentage of the population who had visited the dentist in the previous 24 months remained broadly the same, at 55.9% compared to 55.6% in early 2006.
Nice guidelines for adults recommend they visit the dentist between every three months and two years.
The figures show vast regional differences, with more people in the North of England (61.1%) visiting the dentist in the past two years than anywhere else.
It was followed by the Midlands and East (56.2%), and the South (53.2%), while just 50% went in London.
Commenting on the statistics relating to children, Professor Nigel Hunt, dean of the Faculty of Dental Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said: "This data shows nearly 40% of children are still not visiting a dentist every 12 months, as recommended by Nice guidance.
"This suggests there has been little improvement in the number of children accessing a dentist over the last decade.
"One-third of five year olds suffer from tooth decay in England with some being hospitalised as a result. Visits to the dentist are important for encouraging good oral health, providing rapid diagnosis and treatment to prevent a child from being hospitalised due to tooth decay."