HALF of children aged five and younger have not visited or registered with a dentist, a charity has said after it emerged the waiting list for child dental appointments at the Hospital is at a five-year high.
Dental surgeon Sarah Pollard, who co-founded the charity Super Smiles, said it was vital that early oral health was freely accessible after a Freedom of Information request showed that the average waiting time for a child to see a hospital dentist was 63 weeks for a routine check-up, compared to 16 weeks in 2016.
Meanwhile, the JEP has learned that there are no plans to include a new dental department within the new hospital. If plans for the hospital – which is expected to cost £466 million – are given the green light it will be built on the current site, extending onto adjacent land.
However, the Health Department has said that the dental department will remain based in Newgate Street and will remain operational during the construction of the new hospital.
According to the FoI response, which referred to figures up to July, the average waiting time for children to see an orthodontist is 51 weeks, compared to 17 weeks in 2012. However, the figures also show that the average waiting time for adults in Jersey to see a hospital dentist has reduced over the last five years from 15 weeks in 2012, to 13 in 2017.
The Health Department has attributed the long wait for children to see a hospital dentist to the fact that it is struggling to employ new dentists and dental nurses because of a shortage in the UK.
Currently, Super Smiles works with ten primary schools to help prevent tooth decay as well as providing the children with the tools they need to develop and maintain good oral health from an early age.
Mrs Pollard said 50 per cent of children five years and younger in Jersey were yet to visit or register with a dentist and added that it was one of the charity’s aims to encourage families to register with a dentist before their child’s first birthday.
Referring to the waiting list at the Hospital, Mrs Pollard said: ‘With thousands of children potentially yet to join the long waiting list, it is vital that early oral health advice is freely accessible.’
Meanwhile, JEP readers have used social media to criticise the lengthy wait their children are facing to see a dentist or orthodontist.
Stephanie Marett said: ‘I was told a minimum of two years for a children’s orthodontic assessment.
‘I then waited for five years before my child had treatment.’
Susie Le Long wrote: ‘Orthodontic work has a three-year waiting list and you have to be ready to have braces to go on the list, so even though my daughter’s teeth are bad enough and have been since she was ten, she has only just gone on the list at nearly 12.’
Mich Ollivro-Squirrel said: ‘My daughter has been on the list for two years now.
‘It took a year for her to be seen initially and last time I called I was told at least another two, possibly three years before she can get her braces.
‘She will be 21 by the time she gets them. It’s disgraceful and the system needs to be changed.’