Public health chiefs in Norfolk urged to invest in oral health campaign to ease demand on NHS dentists

NHS England officials say more could be done to improve Norfolk people's oral health.

NHS England officials say more could be done to improve Norfolk people's oral health. - Credit: PA

Calls have been made to invest in a new public health campaign to help reduce thousands of preventable dentist visits in Norfolk.

Councillors heard that the number of people accessing NHS dentistry care in Norfolk had increased by 2pc over the last four years. However, members of the Norfolk Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee and NHS England officials yesterday called on public health chiefs locally to set oral health as a priority to help stop children and adults from suffering tooth decay.

Last year, more than 450,000 people accessed NHS dentistry care in Norfolk, almost 60pc of the population, compared with 433,000 in 2010.

Katie Norton, director of commissioning at NHS England's East Anglia team, said many tooth decay problems were 'largely preventable' conditions and public health officials needed to do more to educate people to help them to improve their oral health by adopting a healthier diet and cutting out sugary foods and drinks.

'Oral health is one of the greatest areas of health inequalities and can have a massive impact on broader issues of health and wellbeing. It is an issue we ignore at our peril and it is a really important issue to get right. In Norfolk we can be relatively assured in the quality and access to dental services, but we recognised that too many people are not accessing services from vulnerable groups,' she said.

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Commissioners said that they were not aware of patients struggling to get access to routine NHS dentist appointments. However, some patients in Norfolk were having to travel to London for specialist root filling problems and there were issues about care home residents receiving home visits.

Michael Carttiss, chairman of the scrutiny committee, added: 'The biggest single cause of children being admitted to hospital is surprisingly because of rotten teeth. That is something that can be easily prevented. If we had a school dental service doing regular check-ups that problem would not arise. I'm sure a more intelligent secretary of state for health would address the issue of funding the NHS to prevent increased costs at a later date.'

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