MORE than 120,000 children across Hampshire have not seen a dentist in a year, the Daily Echo can reveal.

According to new figures, more than 20,000 children in Southampton and more than 100,000 across the county have not seen an NHS dentist in the last year.

Data from the NHS shows that just 61% of children in Hampshire saw an NHS dentist in the 12 months to June 2018, with 110,710 children missing out on their check-up.

But while the percentage of Hampshire children who saw a dentist in the last year is still higher than the national average of 59%, figures drop in Southampton.

According to the data, just 53% of children in the city saw an NHS dentist in the 12 months to June 2018.

This means 23,423 children in the area have not been for their check-up over the period, despite NHS guidelines saying they should be seen every 12 months.

NHS dental care for children is free.

Health bosses and civic chiefs in Southampton said the figures are concerning and “not surprising due to the number of children living in poverty”.

Harry Dymond, chairman of Healthwatch Southampton, added: “The figures for children visiting the dentist in Southampton are a real cause for concern as we know from previous reports that children in Southampton have high rates of tooth decay.”

The latest figures come after data published in 2016 showed that more than a third of children in the city was starting school with rotting teeth.

In the past few years civic chiefs had also considered plans to add fluoride to Southampton’s water supply in a bid to improve children’s teeth. But the proposals were subsequently scrapped after public outcry.

The British Dental Association (BDA) is urging authorities in England to follow the example of the devolved Scottish and Welsh governments, who have set up programmes reaching out to children in schools.

Cllr Dave Shields, cabinet member for health and community safety at the city council, said the authority will work with NHS bosses to look into the best action to take.

And added: “We do have serious concerns about worsening dental health and clearly something needs to be done. One in four children in Southampton is living in poverty. That’s terrible and that is the main issue we need to address because poor dental health seems to affect children from low-income families more than others.”

Cllr Shields said more work to prevent the issue is also required.

“The problems about poor dental health are often occurring before pupils are at school age and we need to take action earlier and sooner,”he added.

When asked if plans to add fluoride to Southampton’s water supply will be considered again he said: “The council policy is opposed to fluoride in the water although we have not discussed this for a while now. This is contrary to the wishes of local dentists and GPs.”

Southampton Itchen MP Royston Smith said: “It is very disappointing to see Southampton below the national average for visits to the dentist. If you look at the number of adults in Southampton who are also missing their appointments I think that gives some idea of what part of the problem might be.”