Low numbers of UK children visiting dentist before first birthday, study finds

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Low numbers of UK children visiting dentist before first birthday, study finds


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New research has found that children from deprived areas are more likely to visit the dentist before their first birthday than children from affluent areas are. (Photograph: Evgeny Atamanenko/Shutterstock)

BIRMINGHAM, UK: The importance of instilling positive oral health habits in children is well known. In a new study, research led by the University of Birmingham School of Dentistry has revealed that just 3 per cent of children in England visited the dentist before their first birthday. Contrary to perceptions, the study also revealed that a higher number of children in lower socio-economic areas visited the dentist compared with those in more affluent areas.

Together with the University of Edinburgh and Public Health England, researchers analysed the NHS Dental Statistics for England—2016–17, Annual Report. From the data collected, the team also found that, nationally, only 12 per cent of children had visited the dentist by their second birthday.

According to the study, one of the lowest rates of dental attendance for children aged under 1 year was in West Berkshire, where it was less than 1 per cent. In comparison, the highest rate of attendance in children aged under 1 year was 12.3 per cent in South Tyneside, which is one of the more deprived areas in England.

Speaking about the results, lead author Candy Salomon-Ibarra of the University of Birmingham said, “The fact that so few children nationally under the age of 2 attend the dentist, no matter where they live or their economic circumstances, shows that policymakers face enormous challenges attempting to improve this situation.”

Researchers said that from March 2014 to 2016 the NHS spent approximately £3.4 billion per annum on dental services, and tooth extraction was the main reason for hospital admission in 5- to 9-year-olds and the sixth most common procedure in those aged under 5 years. Janet Clarke, Chair of the Local Dental Network for NHS West Midlands at NHS England and NHS Improvement Midlands said, “This study paints a worrying picture of the number of very young children attending the dentist and shows that we still have work to do to try and address it.”

“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,” said Salomon-Ibarra.

The study, titled “Low rates of dental attendance by the age of one and inequality between local government administrative areas in England”, was published in the March 2019 issue of Community Dental Health.

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