Healthwatch Blackburn with Darwen have experienced a high number of calls since March 2020 from residents unable to either register with an NHS dentist or book an appointment.
From discussions with other local Healthwatch organisations and online discussions on the Healthwatch England intranet, we are very much aware that this is a nationwide issue.
However, this is of particular concern to us as Healthwatch Blackburn with Darwen, given the fact that the borough has the highest proportion of its five-year olds experiencing decay in the whole of England. We are very conscious of the importance that oral health in the general health and wellbeing of children. Poor oral health can affect the ability of children to sleep, eat, speak, play and socialise with other children. Other impacts include pain, infections, poor diet, and impaired nutrition and growth which affect the ability of the child to learn, thrive and develop.
For adults, the two main oral diseases, dental decay and periodontal disease, share the same risk factors as other chronic diseases and conditions, such as heart disease, cancer, strokes, diabetes and obesity.
We therefore wanted to investigate the reason for the high number of enquiries we are experiencing about access to NHS dentists in the borough and learn more about what local dental practices are providing.