Four in 10 children not going to dentist, NHS figures show
More than 40% of children in England did not see a dentist last year, NHS statistics show - a figure the British Dental Association says is embarrassing.
The BDA said regular dental check-ups were the key to preventing tooth decay in children and urged the government to invest in educating the public.
Tooth decay remains the most common reason young children go to hospital.
Guidelines recommend children see a dentist at least once a year.
The statistics from NHS Digital show that 6.7m children went for a free dental check-up in the year to June - equivalent to 57.9% of all under-18s in England.
A regional breakdown of the figures shows that attendance in the north of England was highest, with 62% of children seeing a dentist there, but in London the figure was just 48%.
Apart from examinations, children were most likely to receive a fluoride varnish treatment - which is painted on to the teeth to strengthen the enamel, making it more resistant to decay.
Last year, these treatments went up by 20% compared with the year before.
Although these figures suggest a small dip in children having teeth extracted in dental practices, there are indications that tooth extractions due to decay continue to be the top reason children aged five to nine are admitted to hospital.
Figures from 2014-15 show an almost 10% rise in children needing tooth extractions from those recorded in 2011-12.
Henrik Overgaard-Nielsen, chair of general dental practice at the British Dental Association, said: "It's clear we have a problem when one in three children are missing out on free dental treatment.
"NHS dentistry has been left to fend for itself, without investment, a strategy, or any attempt at public education.
"These numbers are a national embarrassment, and will not budge until ministers change tack."
He added: "We need a concerted effort to get parents, health professionals and government on the same page."