Patients aged under 18 in the area had just 24,619 courses of treatment in 2020 – 63% down on the 66,869 recorded the previous year – according to
figures obtained from the NHS Business Services Authority through a freedom of information request show.
The steepest decline was seen for the most routine treatments - including examinations and diagnosis – which saw a drop of 66% on 2019, to 17,556 courses.
Urgent procedures fell by 17% to 2,244.
Nationally, children had 4.7 million treatment courses last year – down 59% from 11.6 million in 2019.
The British Dental Association (BDA) warned it could take years to repair damage the Covid-19 crisis has caused to the dental health of young people.
BDA chairman Eddie Crouch, said: “It may take years to undo the damage this pandemic has had childrens’ oral health.
“The kids facing the biggest challenges will be from our most deprived communities, and we now need all hands to the pumps to help them.”
He added: “Tooth decay was already the number one reason for child hospital admissions. Now access to services has halved, the inequalities we’ve long grappled with look set to widen.”
Under Government plans, surgeries falling below 45% of their pre-pandemic activity between January and the end of March could face financial penalties by having to hand back a proportion of their NHS funding.
Mr Crouch added: “Ministers have chosen to focus on volume over need. They need to find a way forward that delivers for the kids that need us most, with tangible support for services, wedded to real commitment to prevention.”
A Department for Health and Social Care spokesman said: “Children’s oral health in England is among the best in the world and we have taken every step through this pandemic to ensure children, and adults, are able to continue to access the highest-quality of dental care.
“Since June last year, all practices have been able to open and deliver in-person care, with over 600 urgent dental centres continuing to provide more support.”