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​Ministers have moral duty to act, as kids face yearlong waits for extractions

Ministers must show they are willing to put prevention at the heart of NHS dentistry, as new figures from the Liberal Democrats show children in some parts of England are now waiting up to 18 months for dental procedures under general anaesthetic, principally tooth extractions.

The BDA stress these yearlong waiting times are nothing new and reflect systemic failures in government policy, the ongoing impact of access problems and huge bottlenecks across all parts of NHS dental services.

BBC research last year found 8 in 10 practices were incapable of taking on new child patients on the NHS. High street dentists are now reporting children presenting with higher levels of need, a result of disruption to routine preventive care. Meanwhile the colleagues tasked with these paediatric extractions in the Community Dental Services, are struggling to secure needed priority, and need to be included in restoration and recovery planning alongside other surgical services.

Last week, a damning report from the Health and Social Care Committee said the discredited system of targets NHS dentistry works to must be abandoned and replaced with a model that is patient-centred and prevention-focused. The BDA has characterised the document as an 'instruction manual to save NHS dentistry' and today over 1,300 dentists have now co-signed an open letter to Steve Barclay MP, pressing the Health Secretary to commit to accept the Committee's recommendations.

Some paediatric patients are awaiting full mouth clearances, the removal of all baby teeth, where delays can leave young patients struggling to eat, sleep, communicate or learn.

British Dental Association Chair Eddie Crouch said:

"Children are waiting in agony thanks to the indifference successive governments have shown to dentistry.

"Yearlong backlogs pre-date COVID, because 'prevention' has been little more than a buzzword.

"It's a perfect storm. Dentists are losing the battle to nip these problems in the bud, and struggle for theatre space when extractions are the only option.

"Ministers have been offered a blueprint for reform. They have a moral responsibility to use it."