Somerset parents struggle to find a dentist for their children

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Parents in Somerset are struggling to find dentists for their children.

The number of NHS dentists has fallen in the region, leaving many parents unable to access appointments for their children. NHS dental care is available free of charge for young children and teenagers, but many are missing out.

Dr Andre Louw, chair of the Somerset Local Dental Committee, said that it has become increasingly difficult to recruit and retain dentists in the area since the pandemic. At the same time, the workload has increased, with more patients coming forward for treatment.

David Fothergill, a Conservative councillor in the county and chair of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, expressed concern about the impact of children missing out on regular dental appointments. Without being able to access dental services, children are not able to benefit from preventative care and minor issues are likely to become more complex. Mr Fothergill added that a lack of appointments now will cause problems to mount up in the next 5-10 years.

In response to a post shared by the BBC on social media, hundreds of people replied, voicing concerns about dental access and sharing stories, which highlighted the issue. Many had not seen a dentist for years, some were travelling to other counties or regions and others had paid for private treatment.

Serena Wootton, from Chard, is one of many affected by dentist shortages. She has been unable to get a dental appointment for her son, who is now 18, for four years. Another Chard resident, Anthony Thresher, said that he has called every practice within 40km of his home to get an appointment for his kids with the nearest surgeries offering new places as far as 30-50 miles away.

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