BRADFORD South MP Judith Cummins has accused the Government of refusing to tackle a “crisis” in children’s oral health with urgency.

It comes after researchers at London’s King’s College Hospital said two out of five (40 per cent) of children who needed oral and maxillofacial surgery due to dental decay over a two-year period were already known to social services.

This has led to the introduction of a new care pathway for children admitted to the hospital’s A&E unit with dental/oral and maxillofacial infections, which will see them risk assessed for neglect and referred to the safeguarding team accordingly.

The study authors said they also want to see their review, which is published in the British Dental Journal, rolled out across the NHS.

Researchers looked at the patient data of children who attended King’s with a dental/oral maxillofacial infection that required surgery under general anaesthetic between January 2015 and January 2017, and found there were 27 children aged between two and 15.

The youngest child was two years and three months, while the oldest was 15 years and nine months. They found 11 (40.7 per cent) children were already known to social services prior to hospital admission.

Study co-author, Kathy Fan – consultant oral and maxillofacial surgeon at King’s, said: “Dental decay in children is a preventable disease and access to NHS dental services is entirely free for children, therefore these children presenting late with acute dentofacial infection are suffering dental neglect that may be an indicator of wider neglect.”

But Mrs Cummins, who is backing the T&A’s Stop the Rot dental campaign, said more needs to be done.

“The central point here is that the lack of NHS dentists available, in Bradford especially, plays a huge role in the crisis in children’s oral health that we are seeing,” she said.

“To fix that requires comprehensive action from the highest levels of government, who are still refusing to tackle this crisis with the urgency it deserves.”

Mick Armstrong, Chair of the British Dental Association, said: Severe tooth decay in children is largely preventable and can be a tell-tale sign of wider neglect."

He called for more research to ensure health professionals are better equipped to identify cases where children are at risk.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said that last year "a record 6.9 million children" were seen by a dentist, with numbers rising every year.

NHS England (Yorkshire and the Humber) has also finalised plans to improve access to NHS dental services across the region, with more than £4 million being invested in areas with the greatest need, including Bradford.