“ACTION is needed and it’s needed soon - the situation is getting worse.”

That was the message from Julie Cooper, Shadow Health Minister for Communities, on a visit to Bradford.

She was invited by Bradford South MP Judith Cummins to discuss the problems with dentistry and oral health both in Bradford and on a national level.

They met with dental professionals and others at Dentistry@BD4 in Tong.

Mrs Cummins, who has worked alongside the Telegraph & Argus on the Stop the Rot campaign, said there is a “crisis” in NHS dentistry and oral health and described it as a national scandal.

Mrs Cooper added: “The situation here in Bradford and indeed in many areas across the country is quite shocking in terms of poor, inadequate access to NHS dentistry,” she said.

“Perhaps most shocking of all is the affect on the oral health of children in this constituency and in many others around the country.

“This is not just a Bradford problem, but it’s very evident in Bradford, and we’ve got a situation where many children are suffering with severe dental decay, many of them ending up in hospital for extractions. It’s not good enough.”

Ruth Biller, Head of School at Carrwood Primary School, Holme Wood, highlighted the human cost of the problem, with children going into school with discoloured teeth and sitting in pain in class.

Dr Tony Kilcoyne, a local dentist, specialist and campaigner, said: “It isn’t even just about dental pain and suffering of young children – it’s their futures, their careers, how we present ourselves, apply for jobs.This has a knock on affect through the whole of society. There are medical consequences to dental ill health and walking around with lots of mouth infections.”

Mrs Cooper said action needs to meet words in bringing prevention to the fore.

The Stop the Rot campaign, launched earlier this year, has often put the thorny issue of the dental contract in the spotlight.

Critics say it is target driven rather than focused on prevention. A pilot for a new, preventative-focused approach is currently underway.

“We have to put prevention in front, we have to empower professionals, we need a better contract, we need to empower patients and parents and our teachers and all the other supportive people who are looking after our community,” said Dr Kilcoyne.

“At the moment it’s chaos, there’s no plan. There’s no central strategy, it’s just sticking plasters every year and trying to ignore the problem.”

He added: “I think the number one problem we have in England is that there is no national dental health prevention strategy.”

The Government has said it is “committed” to improving children’s oral health and reforming the current contract. The approach continues to be tested and a potential national roll out will only happen if it can be shown to work for patients, practices and the NHS.