A LOCAL MP has backed a call for urgent reform of NHS dentistry as it emerged that charities are having to step in to provide dental care to school children.

The British Dental Association has warned Government must pick up the pace on the reform of NHS dentistry, following reports that teachers have requested charities to step in to provide access to dental care for school children.

An investigation by the BBC found that with no local practices able to provide NHS care, teachers at a school in Calderdale appealed to the local authority, which arranged for the charity Dentaid to assess and treat the pupils.

Many of the children had not seen a dentist since the onset of the pandemic, impacting on both their health and ability to learn.

The BDA understands the charity has already provided treatment to as many as 80 children for conditions including decayed and cracked teeth and abscesses, as part of a visit set to last for two weeks.

Bradford South MP Judith Cummins, told the Telegraph & Argus that there is not a week that goes by where she doesn't have someone contacting her about the lack of dentists.

She said: "In February, I led a debate in parliament calling for immediate action from the government and warning that if they did not act urgently NHS dentistry would face collapse. The situation is now so dire that charities are having to step in to provide dental care to school children.

"In Bradford, almost a thousand children under the age of 10 had to be admitted to hospital to have decayed teeth removed under a general anaesthetic last year. That is thousands of children who are in pain while they await surgery because they cannot access preventative dental care.

"I have been clear that this isn’t a problem caused by the pandemic. Even before restrictions, there was only enough NHS dentistry for around half the adult population in England to see a dentist every two years. NHS dentistry was buckling before covid but now it is in crisis.

"The simple fact is that we need a new deal on dentistry that makes it a fully-funded, equal member of the NHS family – not as a forgotten Cinderella service. The government must act and it must act now.”

More than 40 million NHS appointments have been lost since lockdown in England alone – amounting to over a year’s worth of dentistry in normal times - including over 12.5 million for children.

The BDA has called on the Government to recognise the urgency, set a date for breaking from the current failed system, and provide the necessary resources to underpin the rebuild and reform of the service.

British Dental Association Chair Eddie Crouch said: “We salute these volunteers, but this isn’t the Victorian era. A wealthy 21st century nation shouldn’t be relying on charities to provide basic healthcare to our children.

“Schools can see how crucial access to dentistry is, with children struggling to eat, sleep and study. Ministers really need to learn lessons from these teachers about the importance of oral health.

“NHS dentistry is on its last legs. Overstretched, underfunded and facing an unprecedented backlog many dentists have reached the end of their tether. One-off visits to playgrounds risk becoming the new normal unless the government steps up.”

Keep up to date with all the latest news on our website, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

For all the top news updates from right across the region straight to your inbox, sign up to our newsletter here.

Have you got a story for us? Contact our newsdesk on newsdesk@telegraphandargus.co.uk