Health officials in Darlington are blaming the economy for a drop in the number of people attending dental appointments. Families in particular are feeling the pinch as the price of consultations and other treatment rises beyond what they can comfortably afford. As a result, more ways of encouraging people to visit the surgery are being considered. County Durham and Darlington’s director of public health, Dr David Landes, published the figures in his report for the Council’s Health and Partnerships Scrutiny Committee, in an attempt to explain why children’s dental health in the area was slipping below acceptable standards.
A 2008/2009 survey revealed that children under the age of twelve suffering with tooth decay made up more than 40% of that age group, the worst in the country after Middlesborough. The figures were thought to be the result of fluoridated water. However, other results were no more promising; 54% of youngsters not in school were not being seen by the dentist, that number rose even further when the children joined mainstream education. More worrying, between the 2009/2010 and 2010/2011 period the number of people visiting the dentist had dropped dramatically, more than 10% in some age groups.
Dr Landes blames this on the rocky economic climate, causing people to tighten their belts. He says; ‘If you need a course of treatment and you’re not exempt, the current fee is £47 and it’s a considerable amount of money, and it could be nearer £100 if you’re with a family. We’re promoting informal sessions, so at least if people are not exempt they’re not going to have that potentially embarrassing discussion in the waiting room.’