Children are living with rotting teeth for up to a year before having them pulled due to coronavirus delays, the British Dental Association (BDA) has said.
“Significant” waiting times for extractions have resulted in children requiring “multiple courses of antibiotics” to fight infections, the group warned in a letter to the Health Secretary.
Data gathered by the BDA from across England suggests many community and hospital dental services are yet to resume extractions, which are performed under general anaesthetic, after they were paused at the beginning of lockdown.
Up to 50,000 elective procedures were postponed for under 18s between March and May, according to official statistics, and tooth decay remains the “number one reason” for admission among young children, the BDA said.
Official targets for extractions vary between one month and 18 weeks, but due to “high demand and underinvestment” waiting times longer than a year were occurring before the pandemic and are now “expected to surge”, it added.
In a letter to Matt Hancock, the group called for an “urgent action plan”, and the publication of an internal Public Health England review into the “true scale” of extractions under general anaesthetic, which is believed to be “significantly understated”.
“We have raised this issue repeatedly with NHS England,” the letter reads. “Meanwhile the situation has continued to get worse, so we are asking you to step in to resolve this problem as a matter of urgency.”