Children in Portsmouth facing years of dental decay as check-up attendance drops – special report

CHILDREN could face years of dental problems as new figures show parents are not taking youngsters for check ups often enough.

Thursday, 18th April 2019, 8:37 am
Updated Thursday, 18th April 2019, 8:42 am
University of Portsmouth Dental Academy students working and training

As of June 2018 only 55.3 per cent of under-18s in Portsmouth had visited an NHS dentist in the past 12 months, down from the previous year.

Latest data from Public Health England revealed between 2017 and 2018 there were nine tooth extractions carried out in hospitals for Portsmouth children under the age of six. In the same year there were 19 extractions for six to ten year olds.

This is despite data from NHS Digital showing overall check-up attendances in England had grown to nearly 60 per cent of children seeing a dentist in 2018.

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Children in the Hampshire County Council area have improved attendance rates.

Overall in Portsmouth, there were 42 teeth extractions performed on young people under the age of 20 in hospital - an increase since 2011.

Phil Gowers, a former city dentist and chair of the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Local Dental Committee, warned poor dental habits in childhood would continue into adult life.

‘It is so important that children learn from a young age that they must attend dental appointments regularly or they are at risk of having poor teeth for the rest of their lives,’ he said.

‘Children should be taken to the dentist as soon as their first baby tooth comes through and go back every six months.’

But some believed that the problem was not purely the fault of parents.

Matthew Foster, from the Parenting Network in Portsmouth, said: ‘From what we have been told by parents for some of them it is a constant battle with kids to get them to brush their teeth.

‘And many children are anxious about visiting the dentist. It comes from that old stereotype of dentists being scary, which isn’t helped if parents talk about them in this way and mention things like drilling.’

Adults in Portsmouth also saw a drop in attendance at dentists’ surgeries. In the two year to June 2018, under half of all adults went to appointments, compared to 51.3 per cent the year before.

Portsmouth City Council’s health cabinet member Councillor Matthew Winnington said: ‘Across the country, the number of children registered with a dentist is lower than it should be, so this isn’t exclusive to Portsmouth.

‘Health visitors and school nurses also play a key role in advising on good oral health habits but we’d really encourage parents to register their child with a dentist and make the most of the free support on offer to give their child the best chance of avoiding dental problems.’

‘It’s so important that looking after your teeth starts from a young age.

‘The valuable work that the Dental Academy is doing in schools and nurseries with the Brush

Up programme will further help children to understand how to look after their teeth and why this is so important.’