Patients struggle to access NHS dentistry services
A Parliamentary enquiry into the state of NHS dentistry has been launched as patients struggle to access services.
The House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee launched the inquiry after a BBC investigation revealed over 90% of practices are not taking on new NHS adult patients and 80% are not taking on children.
The Committee is also investigating how the government can improve access to NHS dentistry and considering what incentives should be offered to recruit and retain dentists.
The BBC investigation involved 7,000 of the 8,533 NHS dental practices across the UK being contacted.
Many dentists are blaming the pandemic as a contributing factor, as this created a huge backlog in appointments and a decline in the overall dental health of patients. Others quite rightly state the issue is retention, after 3,000 dentists moved from NHS to private practice in just two years. This is likely to be the cause of the announcement from the government that there are going to be significant changes for the first time in 16 years to its NHS dental contract. However, many dentists believe that these changes are too little, too late.
The lack of access to NHS dentistry is causing many people to resort to DIY dentistry. Sales of home tooth cleaning kits and ultrasonic scalers soared during the lockdowns, when many of us were not able to have our teeth professionally cleaned. Since then, reports of people removing their own braces and even extracting their own teeth are being more commonplace.
Dental health is intrinsically linked to overall physical health, with many medical conditions now having proven links to poor oral health. We therefore hope that the inquiry and changes to the NHS Contract will help improve access to NHS dentistry services.