Patients putting off treatment, warn dentists

People may be putting off getting dental treatment due to financial worries, a survey has suggested.

Almost seven out of 10 (68%) dentists said their patients were deferring treatment and 59% reported cancelled appointments.

The poll of 251 dentists in England, for the British Dental Association (BDA), found the knock-on effect could be a rise in the numbers needing emergency treatment.

More than a third of practitioners questioned in October and November said they had seen increased demand for emergency treatment over the previous 12 months.

Susie Sanderson, chairman of the BDA's executive board, said: "It's understandable that, at a time when there is widespread concern about household finances, some patients' financial anxieties are leading them to defer dental appointments and treatment.

"Achieving short-term money savings at the expense of longer-term health problems really isn't wise though.

"Neglecting your oral health can increase both the complexity of the problems you face and the cost of the treatment you must eventually have.

"As well, visiting the dentist at appropriate intervals will ensure that you get the help you need to maintain good oral health."

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said: "We would urge people not to put off their dentist appointments if they are experiencing problems.

"Leaving it could make the situation worse, causing more damage to their oral health and resulting in greater costs in the long term.

"Children under the age of 18 and people on low income or income support are entitled to free NHS dental treatment.

"The Government is committed to improving dental services with a focus on improving preventative care.

"People need a dental service that helps them maintain good oral health and prevents decay, rather than one that is based solely on treatment. This is not only better for patients, but also better use of NHS resources.

"Pilots to improve dental services with an additional focus on improving the oral health of children will begin in April."