A RISING number of NHS dentists across the North are leaving the profession, according to new figures.

A total of 460 dentists left in 2015/16, the highest number for five years and up on the last recorded figure of 421.

One of the areas which showed a marked increase was in Yorkshire where 161 left in 2015/16, an increase of 30 on the previous 12 months.

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In Cumbria and the North-East the number of departing dentists has been spiralling upwards, increasing from 69 in 2012-13 to a high of 108 in 2014/15.

But in 2015/16 the figure dropped back to 91, the figures from NHS Digital showed.

Two clinical commissioning group areas in the North-East also fared poorly when it came to the number of dentists per 100,000 population.

Both Durham Dales, Easington and Sedgfield CCG and Sunderland CCG had between 30 and 40 dentists per 100,000 population in 2016/17, two of just four areas in England in this bottom category.

The British Dental Association (BDA) said there needed to be greater investment in dental services in certain parts of the country such as the North.

It also said the NHS Digital release showed that nearly five million children were missing out on free dentistry, not having had a check-up in the 12 months to June this year.

This was despite guidelines recommending children should be seen by a dentist at least once a year.

In April the BDA revealed that one in four parents in the North-East were unaware that routine dental check-ups are free for under 18s.

It said 40 per cent of parents had delayed a routine check-up for themselves because of the potential cost involved and six per cent had done the same for one or more of their children for the same reason.

Henrik Overgaard-Nielsen, Chair of General Dental Practice at the BDA, said dentistry was not being treated as a priority by the Government and key public health messages were not being delivered.

He said: “The fact nearly five million children are missing out on free dental care is nothing short of a national disgrace.

“Tooth decay – a wholly preventable disease – remains the leading cause of hospital admissions for children, but instead of public information campaigns Westminster has offered radio silence.

“The Government’s chief concerns remain keeping patient numbers down and charge revenue rolling in.

“Far from delivering savings this approach is feeding a false economy and piling huge pressures across the NHS.”