Dental attendance by under-1s improving since recent study says BSPD

Dental attendance by under-1s improving since recent study says BSPD

A study from Birmingham University, published in Community Dental Health found 3% of under-1s attended a dentist, but with significant local variation. In some areas like Worcestershire levels were as low as 1%. But the British Society of Paediatric Dentistry commented that although the research provides a useful baseline to measure the impact of DCby1, ‘it does not reflect the current picture around the country’.

The aim of the study was to describe child dental attendance by 1 year of age in England and its relationship with area deprivation. Rates ranged from 0 to 12.3%  in children <1yr and from 3.7 to 37.6% in children ≤1yr. Attendance rates decreased as deprivation decreased. The study concluded that attendance rates were low for all areas which was only partially explained by deprivation. More deprived areas were, unexpectedly, more likely to report higher attandance rates.

Claire Stevens, spokesperson for the British Society of Paediatric Dentistry (BSPD) and a Consultant in Paediatric Dentistry commented: “The analysis of NHS data undertaken by Birmingham University took place in the 12 months prior to June 2017 so this predated the national launch of the Dental Check by One campaign in September of the same year. 

“This latest research provides a useful baseline to measure the impact of DCby1, but it does not reflect the current picture around the country. We know that hundreds of dentists have introduced Dental Check by One and we also know that there are local authorities working hard to introduce advice on oral health prevention in many locations. Already access has improved with 2.5% more children aged 0-2 accessing a dentist in the year ending December 2018 (compared to December 2016).

“We are also seeing joined-up action with many healthcare organisations as well as pharmacies, nurseries and schools joining getting on board with improving children’s oral health, doing what they can with limited resources. So much good work is happening and there are dental practices and corporate chains leading the way. Let us all learn from them. We know the number of young children aged 0-5 seeing a dentist is low and need to improve - but this is work in progress.”

"One feature of the paper written by the Birmingham team and published  in Community Dental Health is that it shows that access to an NHS dentist is higher in areas of greatest deprivation. It’s welcome news that the young children who most need to see a dentist have a better chance of doing so."

But the BDA has said that low attendance among under-1s at dental practices is indicative of ‘failure from successive governments to offer a joined-up approach to the oral health of children in England.’ They characterised England as now receiving a ‘second-class’ service. Wales and Scotland both have dedicated national child oral health programmes, which operate outreach in schools and nurseries, including supervised brushing. BDA Chair Mick Armstrong said: “Kids in England deserve better than a second-class service.”

Link to article: Salomon-Ibarra et al (2019). ‘Low rates of dental attendance by the age of one and inequality between local government administrative areas in England’. Community Dental Health. DOI: 10.1922/CDH_4390Salomon-Ibarra05

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