As many as 4.4 million children were not seen by an NHS dentist in the last 12 months, new figures have indicated.
This includes nearly one million children in the East of England alone, accounting for half the children in the region.
Commissioned from the House of Commons Library and published by the Liberal Democrats today (18 September), the data has shown that almost two-in-five (38.7%) children have not seen a dentist in the past year across the country.
This number stood at more than one-in-two (55%) children in Norfolk and Waveney – greater than anywhere else in the country – with similarly high rates in South West London (52.5%), Devon (49.2%) and Northamptonshire (49.1%).
The data has also revealed that 22 million adults have not seen by an NHS dentist in the past two years – more than half (51.2%).
This was worst in Gloucestershire (66.6%), Surrey Heartlands (66.2%), North Central London (64.2%) and Kent and Medway (63.6%).
Liberal Democrat deputy leader and health spokesperson Daisy Cooper has called for a reform of the NHS dental contract to create more appointments, as well as to remove VAT on children’s toothbrushes and toothpaste.
She said: ‘This Conservative government has shown a total disregard for every aspect of our health service. Wherever you look, the NHS is crumbling.
‘Every parent knows how important it is to ensure that their children can see a dentist when they need to. Leaving children in pain can disrupt their eating, sleeping and learning. The fact that Ministers are failing to deliver this is completely unacceptable.
‘This has to act as a wake-up call for the government. A rescue package for dentistry is urgently needed. That means reforming NHS dentistry to boost the number of appointments, supervised teeth cleaning in schools and childcare settings and removing VAT on children’s toothbrushes and toothpaste.’
British Dental Association cair Eddie Crouch said: ‘Our youngest patients are already paying the price for a crisis made in Westminster.
‘These access problems are the result of political choices. Every political party needs to wake up and offer a plan of action, otherwise this service won’t have a future.’