Research conducted by a team at Queen Mary University London found that only a third of children are seeing a dentist for tooth pain, with many parents giving their children painkillers or taking them to a GP surgery or even Accident and Emergency departments instead.
The new study showed that parents were using other NHS services rather than going to the dentist for dental pain. Only a third of children who were given pain relief medication for oral pain at community chemists across London had seen a dentist before going to their GP or visiting a pharmacy or hospital department.
Dentists and public health experts are worried that parents are not making use of dental services, which is costing the NHS millions of pounds a year and resulting in children needing complex treatment later on. Pain relief doesn’t treat the root cause, and children who have decayed or infected teeth require procedures that eliminate the cause and prevent the need for further treatment, which can only be provided by trained dentists. If problems are left to fester, this can increase the risk of children ending up in hospital needing extraction under general anaesthetic. The research team estimated the annual cost to the NHS at £2.3 million.
In light of the findings, dentists and health experts have urged parents to take their children to the dentist every 6 months and to consult dental professionals if their child has symptoms or issues between appointments. NHS dental care is available free of charge and most practices offer an out-of-hours service during evenings and weekends.