One of the positive effects of dental practices managing to get more families and children using their services is reduced strain on the NHS, recent research has indicated.
A study led by Queen Mary University of London found that thousands of children with oral pain are being taken to pharmacies and other non-dental health services, including A&E, instead of their dentist. This could be costing NHS England £2.3 million a year.
After looking at more than half of all the pharmacies in London and surveying nearly 7,000 parents, the researchers found the majority of pharmacy visits for children’s pain medication in the capital are to treat oral pain.
Lead researcher Dr Vanessa Muirhead, from Queen Mary University’s Institute of Dentistry, pointed out that less than a third (30 per cent) of children with oral health issues had seen a dentist before going to a pharmacy.
She said this points to a “concerning underuse of dental services”.
“Children with oral pain need to see a dentist for a definitive diagnosis and to treat any tooth decay,” Dr Muirhead continued. “Not treating a decayed tooth can result in more pain, abscesses and possible damage to children’s permanent teeth.
“These children had not only failed to see a dentist before their pharmacy visit; they had seen GPs and a range of other health professionals outside dentistry.”
Earlier research showed that the main reason for planned hospital admissions for children between the ages of five and nine years is to have decayed teeth extracted under general anaesthesia.
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