Tooth decay figures sparks call for action
A report on the ‘unacceptable’ state of NHS dentistry in Torbay has sparked calls for action from a government minister.
Reacting to a report prepared for Torbay Council on current provision NHS dentistry in the bay, Torbay MP Kevin Foster called on the dental minister to intervene.
The report says hospital admissions for tooth decay among children in Torbay are five times the national average and some children below primary school age are unable to eat solids because of bad teeth.
More than 3,500 people in the area are on a waiting list to see NHS dentists, nearly 500 of them children. The figures have soared in the past five years, from a benchmark of 1,400 in 2018.
Hospital admissions for tooth decay for both children and adults are ‘significantly higher’ than national averages, as are death rates from oral cancer.
Torbay has the worst figures in the south west, and the council is considering measures including better children’s education and community dentistry for homeless people.
The report by public health specialist Mark Richards said: “Those unable to afford private care are always hit worst.”
Mr Foster believes urgent action is need. In his letter he said: “Currently 130 vulnerable children are on the new patient waiting list, with the longest wait around 40 weeks before a first assessment. This length of wait is simply unacceptable.
“Hospital admissions for tooth decay in children under 19 are causing particular concern. While overall access to NHS dentists is still better than average for England, the number of five-year-olds with decayed, missing or filled teeth is much worse.”
Mr Foster’s letter says action is ‘vital’ and he wants an update on the government’s plan.
The current minister responsible for dentistry is Andrea Leadsom, who was appointed to the role in the most recent reshuffle a fortnight ago. She is now parliamentary undersecretary of state for primary care and public health.