40% of Suffolk children have not been to dentist in a year, figures reveal
More than 60,000 children in Suffolk have not seen a dentist in the last 12 months, new figures have revealed.
Statistics from NHS data show that 40% of children (aged 17 and under) in the county have not had a check-up in the year up to September, which is in line with the average in England.
This means 60,919 children in Suffolk have not visited their dentist in a year.
The British Dental Association has branded the figures a ‘national disgrace’ and have put it down to a lack of information targeting hard to reach families.
However, Cindy Sharp, practice manager at Tuddenham Road Dental Practice in Ipswich said most parents know their children should be visiting the dentist regularly - but may not realise how vital it is.
She said: “Children here are seen by a dentist every six months, or sooner if that is deemed appropriate.
“It is just really down to sometimes parents not realising the importance of bringing their children along.
“We are quite lucky here that parents do seem to realise but that may not be the case in other areas.
“I certainly think it is vital for them to seen by a dentist, we would recommend every six months. With children, you often don’t know what they are eating when they are off at school - you can’t know how many cans of coke they are drinking away from home, especially with teenagers.
“We think every six months is the best time frame because things can change and decay can happen quite rapidly.
“It is about prevention - we would much rather see someone before they are in pain than after.”
NHS dental care for children is free, although a poll from the BDA last year revealed one in four parents are unaware there is no charge for routine check-ups.
Councillor James Reeder, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for health, said across Suffolk every child receives a ‘Keep Suffolk Smiling’ brushing pack at their 8-12 month check though their health visitor.
The pack contains a toothbrush and toothpaste as well as guidance on visiting the dentist and advice on reducing sugar intake.
He said the council had piloted a supervised toothbrushing scheme with two schools - Cliff Lane and Highfield Nursery in Ipswich. The scheme, which saw a 10% increase in parents registering their child with a dentist, is being extended to Hillside Primary School.
Mr Reeder said: “Suffolk County Council are continuing to work on promoting the importance of good oral health for children from an early age and the long term benefits to the health of their teeth and gums.”
For further information on Keep Suffolk Smiling see here.
He said Suffolk County Council also offer support for families and young people who are overweight or very overweight through its One Life Suffolk service.
It involves support on a healthy balanced diet, understanding food labels and the sugar content in popular food and drink.
For more information on the programme call 01473 718193 or see here.