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Just 2.7 million youngsters saw an NHS dentist in the 12 months to March this year, down from 7 million the previous year – a drop of 4.3 million.
A further 5 million were already missing recommended annual check-ups before Covid struck, according to the British Dental Association (BDA).
It said the pandemic’s impact on adult care was not yet clear, with attendance measured only every two years. But overall – across adults and children – 12 million fewer courses of treatment went ahead in 2020-21 – down 69 percent on the previous year.
Shawn Charlwood, chair of the BDA’s general dental practice committee, said: “Millions are still missing out on dental care and patients will be paying the price for years to come.
“Dentists in England have had capacity slashed by pandemic restrictions, and need help to get patients back through their doors.
“Sadly, while every other UK nation has committed funds, Westminster chose to impose targets that thousands of practices are now struggling to hit.”
The BDA warned delays in diagnosing dental issues can lead to problems escalating, resulting in patients needing more complex treatment.
Mr Charlwood called for a clear plan to allow Covid-19 restrictions imposed on practices to be safely lifted. He added: “Even before Covid there simply wasn’t enough NHS dentistry to go round.
“We cannot return to a ‘business as usual’ where access problems are the norm.”
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