​The British Dental Association has said new figures from Queen Mary University of London suggesting children's use of non-dental services for dental pain could be costing the NHS £2.3 million a year are just the tip of the iceberg.

Dentist leaders have the slammed decades of ministerial indifference that are placing huge pressures across the NHS, with underfunding, over reliance on patient charges, and failure to reform the discredited dental contract all piling pressure on health services.

The BDA has called for funded emergency slots for children as well as adults, and for sustained public information campaigns. While dental care for children is free, polling has shown 1 in 4 parents are unaware of that fact.

The BDA has previously estimated annual costs for both adults and child patients at A&E services at £18 million and GPs at £26 million. Tooth decay is also the number one reason for child hospital admissions, with procedures costing the NHS an estimated £36.2 million a year.

The BDA's chair of General Dental Practice Henrik Overgaard-Nielsen said: 'Dentists are trained and equipped to treat oral pain. Ministers must take their share of responsibility for the fact that so many parents are now heading elsewhere when their children have problems.

'The failure to take oral health seriously is now piling pressure across our NHS. Parents and dentists are seeing no leadership here, and pharmacists and medics are struggling to fill the gap.

'Sadly these latest figures are just the tip of the iceberg. Tooth decay, a wholly preventable condition, remains the number one reason for child hospital admissions.

'It's a scandal that government indifference is coming with a multi-million pound price tag.'