The BDA has said that low attendance among under-1s at dental practices is indicative of failure from successive governments to offer a joined-up approach to the oral health of children in England.
The study from Birmingham University, published in Community Dental Health found 3% of under-1s attended a dentist, but with significant local variation. In some areas like Worcestershire levels were as low as 1%.
The BDA supports the idea of getting children to a dentist early, to encourage good habits and embed a preventative approach. It has however criticised the lack of ambition from authorities to deliver on this vision. The Association has called for a concerted and joined-up approach covering primary schools and nurseries, GPs, health visitors and other care providers.
Dentist leaders have characterised England as now receiving a 'second-class' service. Wales and Scotland both have dedicated national child oral health programmes, which operate outreach in schools and nurseries, including supervised brushing.
The Government's centrepiece policy Starting Well programme, aimed at improving oral health outcomes for 'high risk' children, has no new funding attached. Only around 300 practices out of almost 9,000 NHS practices in England are currently involved in the programme.
BDA Chair Mick Armstrong said: "Tooth decay is the number one reason young children will end up in hospital, and it won't be solved with token efforts. "Baby teeth matter, and getting very young kids attending requires joined-up action. Sadly ministers have offered little more than posters to pop up in dental practices. "Preaching to the converted will not cut it. We need real engagement in schools and nurseries, and Scotland and Wales are already leading the way. Kids in England deserve better than a second-class service."