70,000 more toddlers to get their first dental check-up as NHS England targets childhood dental health

NHS England is calling on dentists to see an additional 70,000 pre-school children as part of a drive in the health service’s 70th year, to help young families to get into the habit of good dental health.

Latest data show that over 140 children per day, some just one year old, are having decayed teeth removed. These are now being tackled head on with a newly launched awareness programme supporting 24,000 dentists across England to see more children from a young age.

Good dental health habits can be formed by booking a baby’s first dental check by their first birthday, stopping the rot before it starts and preventing the need for future tooth extractions.

As part of the Starting Well Core programme, the Chief Dental Officer for England, Sara Hurley, is also encouraging parents and carers to take advantage of extra access opportunities at their local dental practice and obtaining free NHS dental care.

Sara Hurley, Chief Dental Officer for England, said: “Taking pre-school children to the dentist can prevent the pain of tooth extractions.

“Regular visits to your dentist from a very early age, is key to developing habits that lead to a lifetime of good oral health. The NHS is providing additional support to dentists to help them see more children, so that painful and distressing dental operations, later in life, can be reduced.”

All children up to the age of 18, or under 19 and in full time education, qualify for free NHS dental treatment. Increasing access for infants and young children is a real step forward in the battle against early childhood tooth decay.

Approximately only one in 10 children under two currently has a NHS dental check-up but a first dental visit by a baby’s first birthday, as recommended by experts, will help prevent  the tooth decay experienced by a quarter of England’s five year olds.

The NHS England campaign aims to reduce the large numbers of children undergoing general anaesthetic and emergency dental treatments for the removal of decayed teeth – currently a considerable cost to the NHS. Improved dental health for children will also lead to a decrease in the number of missed nursery sessions and parents and carers needing to take time off work.

The Starting Well Core initiative will include additional support to the dental profession, including training materials and guidance for caring for your children, and a programme of communication to encourage the public to take up the offer of a ‘Dental Check By One’, for babies in the first year.