Dentist offers check-ups for all children

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

A dentist is offering free check-ups to children - even if they are not registered at her practice.

Dr Caroline Jackson will treat any child who has not seen the dentist in the past two years, regardless of whether they are on her books.

Data showing tooth decay as the primary reason for hospital admissions in children prompted the offer, she said.

As clinical director of Hartlepool's Dental & Implant Centre, Dr Jackson wants to "change the prognosis" for children locally.

Experts say children living in poorer areas are more likely to have a tooth taken out than their more affluent peers - and Hartlepool is one of the most deprived areas in England.

Dr Jackson said: "It's not right or fair that if you are a child in a poorer household you are more likely to have a tooth extracted.

"Having a healthy smile shouldn't be dictated by how wealthy your parents are.

"We want to do our bit to help by offering check-ups to children in our community at no cost to their parents."

For more than a year, the team at the clinic has also been offering NHS emergency appointments to anyone with a dental problem.

That was part of a scheme introduced by the North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care Board to address problems regarding access to NHS dentistry.

The scheme was initially for 2023-24, but Dr Jackson and her staff are now calling for an extension of it from April.

A spokesperson for the integrated care board (ICB), which takes on delegated responsibility for commissioning pharmacy, general ophthalmic and dental services from NHS England, said the scheme was being reviewed in light of recent national dental reforms.



Dr Jackson recently visited Westminster with Hartlepool's MP Jill Mortimer to discuss her concerns about access to dental care with the government.

Dr Jackson said NHS dentistry was "in free fall" and that recruitment of NHS dentists had "never been so difficult".

She added: "But it's no good us dentists just sitting in our surgeries moaning about it, we need to do something about it."

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson recently said the government invested more than £3bn a year to support NHS dentistry and was "starting to see progress".

He added: "Our new Dental Recovery Plan, backed by £200m, will create an additional 2.5 million appointments over the next 12 months.

“As part of the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan, we will build a pipeline of new dentists for the future by expanding dental undergraduate training places by 40% per year by 2031 to 2032, with an initial 24% increase by 2028 to 2029.”