More than 1 million patients unable to get NHS dentist amid rising tooth decay crisis

‘They are often people in pain, left without the care they need,’ British Dental Association says

Alex Matthews-King
Health Correspondent
Saturday 02 February 2019 10:38
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A 62-year-old man pulled own tooth with pliers after 18-month wait for appointment
A 62-year-old man pulled own tooth with pliers after 18-month wait for appointment

More than a million people in England cannot register with an NHS dentist, with many “left in pain” and paying the price for ministers’ “indifference”, dental leaders warned.

Analysis of the NHS GP Patient Survey found one in four patients, roughly 1.03 million people, are not on the books of an NHS dentist and have been unable to get an appointment in the past year.

The British Dental Association (BDA) said the issue is set to get worse with three out of five dental practitioners in England saying they intend to reduce their NHS work, or stop entirely, in the next five years.

Britian’s high sugar habit has led to soaring numbers of tooth extractions, particularly in young children, where they have risen 50 per cent in the past two years.

Earlier this week a 62-year-old engineer from Truro, Cornwall, said he used pliers to remove his own tooth after waiting 18 months to see a dentist.

Jar of decayed teeth, including 16 from a two-year-old child, removed during a single afternoon in surgery by Claire Stevens CBE, paediatric dental consultant also known as ‘the tooth fairy’ (Claire Stevens CBE, British Society of Paediatric Dentistry

Access issues exist in every English region, but Lincolnshire is the area worst hit, followed by parts of Norfolk, Derbyshire, West Yorkshire and Cornwall, according to the NHS data.

Despite a wide-ranging NHS 10-year plan announced last month, the BDA says there was little good news for dentists and it says government spending on dentistry has fallen by more than 10 per cent in the last five years.

BDA vice chair Eddie Crouch said: “High street NHS dentistry is on the brink, and it’s the patients who need us most who risk losing out.

“Across England practices are now unable to fill vacancies, as a system of unforgiving targets pushes talented colleagues out. The result is hundreds of thousands of irregular attenders – many with poor oral health – are falling through the cracks.

“These aren’t just patients seeking a regular check-up. They are often people in pain, left without the care they need.”

But an NHS England spokesperson said: “More than nine out of 10 people needing a dental appointment get one, with a clear majority saying they are happy with their care.”

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