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Figures given in the Commons last week revealed that 830,000 NHS patients have been removed from dentists' lists since 1992, when fees paid for NHS work were reduced
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Figures given in the Commons last week revealed that 830,000 NHS patients have been removed from dentists' lists since 1992, when fees paid for NHS work were reduced, writes Cherrill Hicks

Robert Nixon, 38, is an NHS dentist in Carlisle.

Hours: 60 a week

Training: five years

Experience: 15 years

Earnings: refused to say. No private practice. The average NHS dentist earns about £35,000 annually.

The job: he has about 3,500 patients on his list. "This area has high levels of poverty and tooth decay, particularly among children, so sadly a lot of my time is spent treating decay and taking out teeth - although we do spend more time now on prevention, giving dietary advice. Since I started, dentistry techniques and materials have both improved, so we are able to save more teeth, to bridge gaps where we would once have put in dentures."

Pros: "It sounds like a clich but dentistry is a vocation: I enjoy treating people. I want to give them the best treatment I can."

Cons: "It's very frustrating when patients find a treatment too expensive; when I say I could save this tooth with a root fill and crown but it will cost you £100. Most people just cannot afford it: they will opt for having the tooth out and a denture, which costs £10.

"When I started, the maximum a patient paid towards fees was £5. Now it's £275.

"In my career I've had three patients with oral cancer who have all died. Every year more people die of oral cancer than of cervical cancer; yet people can't get a free dental examination, which could pick up cases quickly.

"The cuts in our fees have made things more difficult: two dentists have gone bankrupt in our area in the past couple of years. We have tried to continue in the NHS, and so far we've managed."

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