Just three in 10 parents take children to dentist for oral pain, says study

A study says NHS England could save millions of pounds if children with oral pain saw their dentist before going to another health worker, as figures showed only 30% of parents took their child to a dentist.

Researchers said there is a "concerning" under-use of dental services after it found that some children have multiple contacts with other health officials such as GPs, nurses or A&E trips.

Experts from Queen Mary University of London examined data on almost 7,000 parents who visited community pharmacies in London to pick up pain medication for their child.

Of these, 65% were picking up medication for oral pain.

These parents were quizzed on where they had sought help from prior to their pharmacy visit.

Just 30% said they had taken their child to see their dentist and 15% said they had been to see a GP or practice nurse.

Overall, 28% of children had seen between one and four different health professionals.

A total of 31 parents said they had taken their child to A&E and 57 said they had taken their youngster to an NHS walk-in or an urgent care centre.

The researchers, who published their study in the journal BMJ Open, calculated that the NHS spends an estimated £2.3 million every year when children with oral pain inappropriately use multiple health services.

Lead researcher Dr Vanessa Muirhead, from Queen Mary's Institute of Dentistry, said: "The fact that only 30% of children with oral pain had seen a dentist before going to a pharmacy highlights a concerning under-use of dental services.

"Children with oral pain need to see a dentist for a definitive diagnosis and to treat any tooth decay.

"Not treating a decayed tooth can result in more pain, abscesses and possible damage to children's permanent teeth.

"These children had not only failed to see a dentist before their pharmacy visit; they had seen GPs and a range of other health professionals outside dentistry.

"This inappropriate and overuse of multiple health services including A&E is costing the NHS a substantial amount of money at a time when reducing waste is a government priority."

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