Letter: A gap in the NHS

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The Independent Culture
Sir: One of the main aims of dentists is to preserve teeth, contrary to the claims in Jeremy Laurance's article, "Dentists who drill for gold" (15 December). Indeed, the implication of the headline is many years out of date. Filling teeth will always be a last resort, but it is often the only way of preserving a tooth. The success dentists have had in preventing tooth decay and preserving teeth has meant that, unlike 30 years ago, people can now expect to keep their teeth for life.

The British Dental Association is very concerned that there is a shortage of NHS dentists and has been lobbying government and MPs to improve access to NHS dentistry. It is government underfunding of NHS dentistry over many years which has left many patients without an NHS dentist. Dentists do not leave the NHS for ideological reasons but because they are struggling to cover their overheads, which amount to 55 per cent of their income. Despite its pledge that the NHS will be there when people need it, the Government is not taking sufficient action to ensure that this is true of dentistry. It has failed to release pounds 12m it has promised to improve access problems.

Most patients are happy with their dental treatment. A Harris poll carried out only this month found that nine out of ten people are happy with the care and treatment they receive from their dentist.

JOHN HUNT

Chief Executive

British Dental Association

London W1

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