Only 3% of children go to the dentist before they turn one

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Only three per cent of children visit the dentist before their first birthday, a study has revealed.  

Parents have now been reminded of the importance of taking their youngsters to the dentist as soon as their first tooth appears.

Not doing so puts children risk of tooth decay, dental experts have warned.

The analysis of NHS Digital data for England also showed only 12 per cent of children had visited the dentist by their second birthday   

The study was carried out by the University of Birmingham alongside the University of Edinburgh and Public Health England.

The team of academics sifted through the 2016/17 NHS Dental Statistics for England Annual Report.

The researchers were surprised to find that children from deprived backgrounds were more likely to attend check-ups than their wealthier counterparts. 

One of the lowest rates of dental attendance was in West Berkshire, where under one per cent of children aged one had seen the dentist. 

But deprivation in the area is ranked low, compared to South Tyneside, one of the most deprived local authorities in England.

The authority recorded the highest rate of attendance in children aged under one – 12.3 per cent.  

The authority with the lowest attendance was the City of London, with just 0 per cent. However, only 8,000 people are thought to live there. 

The research was published in the journal Community Dental Health.

Lead author Candy Salomon-Ibarra, from the University of Birmingham, said: ‘Our findings were unexpected as we had anticipated seeing higher levels of attendance in more affluent local authorities, but this was not the case. 

‘We explored with private dentistry providers whether children were being seen privately instead, but this does not seem to be the explanation.  

‘The fact that so few children nationally under the age of two attend the dentist, no matter where they live or their economic circumstances, shows that policymakers face enormous challenge attempting to improve this situation.’ 

The NHS recommends parents take their children to the dentist when their first milk teeth appear. 

Following that, health regulators say parents should schedule another check-up by the age of one, and then follow-ups at least every 12 months.

If not, the consequences could be long-term, as well as damaging their baby teeth.

Dr John Morris, senior lecturer in dental public health at the University of Birmingham, said: ‘Early dental visits not only provide parents with information they require to prevent early childhood oral health issues, but it is also believed that such dental visits familiarise children with the dental environment and reduce future dental anxiety. 

‘Poor oral health can cause pain and infection, which can affect eating, sleeping, socialising and learning, yet worryingly our research suggests that there is a widespread lack of understanding of the importance of taking children to the dentist before their first birthday.’ 

The research found the NHS spends around £3.4billion per year on dental services. 

In the two years to March 2016, tooth extraction was the main reason for hospital admission in five to nine-year-olds and the sixth most common procedure in those aged under five. 

The British Dental Association (BDA) said successive governments have failed to offer a ‘joined-up’ approach to children’s dental health.  

Chairman Mick Armstrong said: ‘Tooth decay is the number one reason young children will end up in hospital, and it won’t be solved with token efforts.’ 

In 2016/17, dentists removed rotting teeth in nearly 43,000 operations, the BDA said, but nearly all of these could have been avoided. 

The researchers said more studies are needed to explore the reasons for such variations in rates of dental visits, such as a lack of local initiatives to encourage attendance or difficulties accessing NHS care.

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