Labour vow to improve children's teeth with 100,000 urgent dentist appointments, as number of tooth extractions grows

11 June 2024, 05:50

Labour are set to create 100,000 extra dental appointments per year
Labour are set to create 100,000 extra dental appointments per year. Picture: Alamy

By Kit Heren

Labour has said it will improve the state of children's teeth with 100,000 extra dentist appointments if it wins the election.

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The extra appointments, which will take place in the evenings and on weekends, will be accompanied by supervised toothbrushing sessions for children.

The £109 million scheme will be paid for by cracking down on tax dodgers and by tightening up non-dom loopholes, Labour said.

It will also include increasing the number of NHS scanners by investing in AI equipment, reforming the dental contract and bringing in signing on bonuses to recruit dentists to areas in need.

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting added: "What a tragic indictment on the state of NHS dentistry under the Conservatives, that children are ashamed to speak because of the state of their teeth.

Read more: Hardly any dentists think government's plan to fix NHS dentistry will work, survey finds

Read more: Dental practice bombarded with 27,000 phone calls as patients queue for hours to get one of 60 slots

'Those old horror stories of Victorian barbershop dentists with people getting savaged will come to fruition' says dentist Paul Woodhouse

"Labour will provide an extra 100,000 appointments for children a year and supervised toothbrushing for three-to-five year olds, to put a smile back on kids' faces."

Eddie Crouch, chairman of the British Dental Association, said: "Supervised toothbrushing can help us shift the dial from drilling and filling to actively preventing dental disease.

"There's nothing 'nanny state' about a tried-and-tested policy that can save children pain and our NHS a fortune."

Thousands of children were admitted to hospital with tooth decay last year.

Wes Streeting rubbishes the 'nanny state' critics over Labour's toothbrush training

Some 47,581 tooth extractions took place in NHS hospitals in England for patients aged 0 to 19, with 66% - or 31,165 - down to a primary diagnosis of tooth decay, up 17% from the previous 12 months.

Tooth decay remains the most common reason fo children between the ages of five and nine being admitted to hospital.

Hospital admissions for childhood tooth extractions cost NHS hospitals £64.3 million last year, with decay-related extractions costing £40.7 million.

As well as children's dentistry, Labour will also aim to provide extra hospital appointments, scans and operations for them.

Wes Streeting
Wes Streeting. Picture: Alamy

Earlier this year, the Conservatives unveiled a plan to improve access to dentistry. They said dentists would be:

  • To be offered a £20,000 to work in under-served areas
  • To be paid more for NHS work
  • To be driven around in vans to treat people living in remote areas

The plan also envisions the biggest expansion of water fluoridation in England since the 1980s, and a 'Smile for Life' advice programme aimed at new parents, as well as mobile dental teams being deployed to schools.

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