Much better communication from the NHS to the public is required about dental services so that expectations can be managed without undermining patient/clinician relationships.
Dedicated and sustained funding for children’s access and prevention programmes is needed to avoid the need for episodic interventions.
There must be strong lines of local communication between all relevant stakeholders including the dental practices, dental commissioners, the local authority, schools, community dental services, health visitors etc.
All interventions aimed at improving healthy living for children, such as healthy eating and obesity campaigns must include a meaningful oral health component.
Local schools must have details of available local NHS dental services and for dedicated funding to be available for the provision of service to new children in the locality.
What is the problem?
Access to NHS dental services for children varies considerably across the country, despite NHS dental care being free for children.
Preventable decay causes discomfort, keeps children off school, parents off work and can lead to avoidable hospital admissions for extractions and other dental treatment.
Dental public health interventions for children’s oral health are often sporadic and reliant on non-recurrent funding, meaning that the provision to support long term behaviour change is undermined and communities may lose access to services where it was previously available.
Coordination between stakeholders and other interested parties when campaigns are run is lacking; This leads to conflicting messages and expectations.
The NHS is dealing with a backlog of unmet needs and delayed appointments. The availability of NHS dental appointments remains limited.
Access to NHS dental care is a zero-sum game in which access for one group means a reduction in access for another. This creates a tension between those seeking routine, preventive, care and those who require more complex clinical care.
As the pandemic has delayed access to dental care for all patients, there has been a consequential impact on the availability of appointments for children’s routine, preventive, care.
The current contractual arrangements do not support access to NHS dental care for children.