We have all experienced difficulty in getting dentist appointments. As a campaigner, one of my biggest worries is health provision. The lack of dentists is an even bigger issue than the lack of doctors. Forgive the numbers but they paint a stark picture. Research by the House of Commons Library estimates that in England the number of children who have not been seen by an NHS dentist in the year to June 2023 is 4,426,877 (38.71%). The figure for adults not seen over the last 24 months is 22,959,977 (52.1%).
This is despite the NHS recommending that under-18s see a dentist at least once a year because their teeth can decay faster. Furthermore, we forget that tooth decay is the leading cause of hospital admissions for children aged 6-10. Every parent knows how important it is to ensure that their children can see a dentist when they need to. Leaving children in pain will disrupt their eating, sleeping and learning.
What is the position locally? In Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, the figures are significantly worse. For children over 12 months the figures are 170,297 (48.7%). 871,947 adults (62.1%) were not seen over 24 months. These figures hide the human result: those who have the money end up paying hundreds of pounds for private care, those who cannot afford it end up suffering.
We need an emergency rescue plan for NHS dentistry, including spending any funding that has gone unspent in recent years to boost the number of appointments. A simple first step would be the removal of VAT on children’s toothbrushes and toothpaste.
Cllr Luigi Gregori