CONCERNS have been raised after the number of people visiting hospital for emergency dental treatment tripled in East Lancashire last year.

Staff at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust (ELHT) gave emergency dental treatment to 322 patients in 2013, which was up from 106 in 2012, according to figures obtained by the Lancashire Telegraph through Freedom of Information laws.

The increase mirrored a national trend which health campaigners said was down to a rise in the number of families struggling to afford regular check-ups on their teeth, with visits to the dentist becoming a ‘luxury’ for many.

The relevant staff at ELHT were unavailable to discuss the figures yesterday, but a spokesman said it was unclear whether the numbers related to all emergency dental admissions, or just patients who had damaged their teeth through a fall, or a fight, for example.

Nationally, 3,505 went to casualty with tooth problems in 2010/11, but that soared to 14,526 in 2012/13, which led to the Unison union calling for a governmental review into emergency dental treatments.

Christina McAnea, Unison’s head of health, said: “Things are bad when people start neglecting their oral health for money reasons. Some people suffer for hours, sometimes days, with severe tooth pain and find themselves with no other option but to go to A&E as they can’t afford to pay the dentist.

“The link between poor dental health and general health issues is very clear and the growing number of people needing urgent dental attention at A&E is extremely worrying.

“This is the early sign of a major problem.”

The British Dental Association warned patients that ‘short-term savings at the expense of long-term problems really isn’t wise’.