Calls for school dentistry to be reintroduced have intensified, amid reports the crisis in the sector is so acute that children are having to get their teeth pulled.
Longstanding shortages of NHS dentistry in Norfolk have seen more and more parents struggle to arrange for their children to see an expert.
The situation has prompted councillors to call for school dentistry, a service which sees dental workers go into school and offer toothbrushing demonstrations and education, to be reinstated in the county.
Lucy Shires, Liberal Democrat councillor for North Walsham East, said the measure would be “true prevention work in action”.
Miss Shires said: “People are just not looking in children’s mouths enough and that is building a big problem for ourselves in the future.
“It is not solely an issue with health either, as it is not just leaving children with bad teeth – it is affecting how their speech develops and creating issues communicating.”
Miss Shires initially raised the issue at a county council cabinet meeting last month but was told the NHS was responsible for arranging the provision.
But at a meeting of Norfolk County Council’s health overview and scrutiny meeting on Thursday, Jessica Bendon, of NHS England, said the measure would be a preventative one – which is the responsibility of County Hall.
Alexandra Kemp, an independent councillor in King’s Lynn, said: “We have mothers with young children who have never seen a dentist.
“Should we not be looking at having a school dentist service as we did before?
“We would then have 100pc coverage and setting children on the right track, rather than having children admitted to hospital for tooth extraction.”
Conservative councillor Alison Thomas, who chairs the committee, said she would write to the county’s director of public health about the issue.
She said: “What I am hearing is we would all like to see the return of the school dental service.
“It might only pick up a problem that needs to be referred, but equally it means at least somebody has looked in that child’s mouth.
“The problem we have is that children are not being seen and once their teeth have rotted out there is nothing more that can be done except take them out – which is not a good position to be in.”