Children in Northern Ireland continue to receive more fillings than their counterparts in the UK, new figures show.
Dental statistics for Northern Ireland were released on Thursday by the Health and Social Care Business Services Organisation (BSO).
It said that one-in-five children registered with a dentist (21%) received treatment for a filling during 2019/20
This has dropped by 12% in the last four years, with England and Wales seeing similar drops of 9% and 11% respectively and Scotland seeing the highest reduction of 22%.
It’s thought this could be down to the introduction of a number of preventative schemes.
Adults in Northern Ireland are also behind other regions, with a 4% decrease in fillings over four years compared to England (14%), Scotland (12%) and Wales (9%).
Other figures for Northern Ireland show that women now make up 57% of the workforce, with the trend even greater in new dentists with 68% of those under 35 being female.
Just under two-thirds (64%) of the population are registered with a health service dentist, which is more likely in children (75%) compared to adults (61%).
Females are more likely to be registered with a dentist than males (67% compared to 61%), which is most pronounced in the 18-44 age group with 71% of females registered compared to just 55% of males.
For children, the proportion registered with a dentist in March 2020 was more likely in more affluent areas.
This equated to 80% in the 10% least deprived areas, compared to 65% of children registered in the 10% most deprived areas.
Tooth extractions have also seen a steady decline during this period down to around 6% of registered children and 9% of adults.
In 2019/20, the net cost of primary care dental services was around £104.9m, with payment patients contributing an extra £26m, and the cost of the average patient was just over £55.
Meanwhile, the Health Minister Robin Swann met representatives of the British Dental Association on Thursday to thank them for their service during the pandemic.
He also addressed several issues raised by the BDA, including PPE and financial support for General Dental Services (GDS).
“Like their colleagues across the HSC family, local dentists have continued to play a vital part in protecting the public throughout the first phase of this pandemic,” he said.
“ They have not only provided advice and face-to-face care to patients in general dental practices but have worked in the Urgent Dental Care centres. I am also very thankful to those dentists who used their expertise when redeployed to care homes and community pharmacies.”
Mr Swann said a financial support scheme for local dentists, which has already provided £12m, will continue for a further two months to support the return of non-urgent dental care as the restrictions are lifted.
The Department is also to engage with the profession to discuss financial support for the remained of 2020/21.
The Minister also announced that over 3 million individual items of PPE will be delivered to dental practices in the coming weeks.