ALMOST 1,000 children in Bradford had to be admitted to hospital in 2019-20 to have rotten teeth removed. 

The stark statistic was put in the spotlight by Bradford South MP Judith Cummins in a Westminster Hall debate on access to NHS dentistry.

She said it was in trouble before Covid-19, but is now facing an "emergency".

"In Bradford, almost 1,000 children under the age of 10 had to be admitted to hospital to have decayed teeth removed under a general anaesthetic in 2019-20," she said.

"Thousands of children in Bradford and across the country are waiting in pain, taking painkillers and potentially multiple rounds of avoidable antibiotics to control their infection while they await surgery. 

"No figures for the size and length of waiting lists for hospital tooth extractions in children or vulnerable adults are currently collected, but I am told that people are routinely waiting as long as two to three years—that is two to three years in acute pain."

The MP said the access problem has reached an "unprecedented scale" and spoke of the issues surrounding the current dental contract.

"According to the BDA (British Dental Association) survey, this is the number one reason that dentists are either leaving the NHS, or reducing the amount of work that they do in it," she said.

"Only last week I spoke to the owner of a dental practice in my own constituency, who is in fact my dentist, who told me that he's just learnt that one of his dentists is leaving an NHS practice to move to private dentistry."

Health Minister Maria Caulfield said Covid has had a significant impact on access to dental services, but acknowledged: “There were problems before Covid, those same problems exist post-Covid and we are absolutely focused on starting to tackle those.”

She said dentistry has been a "priority" for her and added: “I absolutely understand the problems that make working and delivering an NHS contract unbelievably difficult, the contract is the number one long-term issue that we have to deal with and we are starting progress on that as soon as possible.”

Speaking after the debate, Ms Cummins said: “There is not a week that goes by where I don’t have someone contacting me about the lack of dentists."

She said dentistry cannot be a 'Cinderella' service and added: "We must work to achieve a fully-funded service where NHS dentistry is available to all. The Government needs to act and it needs to act now.”