Children in Devon ‘unable to eat solid food’ due to dental crisis, report warns

The report says: “Local authorities have the statutory duty for oral health improvement but not the budget.”

Hospital admissions for tooth decay among children in an area of Devon are five times the national average, according to a recent report. 

More than 3,500 people in Torbay are on a waiting list to see an NHS dentist, nearly 500 of them children.

Hospital admissions for tooth decay in children under 19 are causing particular concern, according to a report for the council.

While overall access to NHS dentists is still better than average for England, the number of five-year-olds with decayed, missing or filled teeth is much worse.

So is the number of deaths from oral cancer in the bay.

The report, carried out for the local council, warned that some children below primary school age can’t eat solids because of their bad teeth.

The figures for adults and children have soared in the past five years from a benchmark of 1,400 in 2018, to 3,500 people in 2023.   Credit: PA

“Children with dental problems may have poorer diets due to dental pain, have higher levels of school absenteeism as well as impaired concentration due to pain and interrupted sleep,” the report reveals.

Torbay has the worst figures in the South West, and the Council is trying to find ways to get those rates down.

The report goes on: “Those unable to afford private care are always those hit worst. Anecdotal reports from teams undertaking home visits in our poorer neighbourhoods, such as district nurses, health visiting teams and social workers, reflect a high number of directly related cases including children under five unable to eat solid foods due to the poor state of their teeth.

“Having to attend A&E as a last recourse due to severe dental pain is not uncommon.”

Ninety-eight per cent of dentist practices in the area are not accepting new NHS patients, and according to the report, there is “widespread dissatisfaction” with the current setup.

“Having to attend A&E as a last recourse due to severe dental pain is not uncommon.”

Measures being considered by the Council include children’s education and community dentistry for homeless people. 

There are also calls to set up a Devon-wide oral health steering group.

Credit: Guy Henderson / Local Democratic Reporting Services