6 August 2016

Following claims from the British Dental Association (BDA) that NHS charges are driving patients with dental problems away from the dentist and towards overreached GPs, leading oral health charity the Oral Health Foundation is supporting their call to make NHS dentistry more financially accessible.

The BDA have labelled NHS dental charges a 'tax on health' and are calling on the government to give dental patients in England a fair deal in terms of the disproportionate amount of money they are being forced to contribute to services.

The BDA have discovered that NHS dental charges have forced roughly 600,000 dental patients to unequipped and ill-prepared GPs in the last year, costing health services an estimated £26 million. 

The Oral Health Foundation are extremely worried that NHS charges are hitting the poorest areas of society the worst and more and more people will avoid vital dental visits due to the costs involved.

Dr Nigel Carter, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation, said: "It is deeply concerning to see so many of us are avoiding going to the dentist due to high charges. Unfortunately, if action is not taken immediately, this is an issue which will only continue to get worse." 

"We get thousands of calls to the Dental Helpline from members of the public who are incredibly worried about how they will be able to afford the most basic of dental services. We have had cases of some people resorting to sacrificing money which they need to pay for food and bills, in order to pay for dental treatment. This simply must not be allowed to continue.

"Instead of supporting NHS dentistry and affordable dental care at the point of service, government have continued to steady increase dental charges over many years. In England the 5% increase this year was against zero inflation so the real cost is increasing. This will only lead to far more of us delaying visits the dentist due to how much it will cost.

"The impact is not just in our pocket either, in the long run it will only make dental problems worse. 

"Nearly one in five patients in the UK have delayed dental treatment due to cost, yet research shows that the longer we leave between dental visits the likelihood of developing tooth decay dramatically increases."

The Adult Dental Health Survey (2009) showed that tooth decay was present in 23 per cent of adults who had visited the dentist within the past 12 months compared to 40 per cent of adults who last visited the dentist between one and five years.

"Scarily, this is also a major barrier for the early diagnosis of mouth cancer," added Dr Carter.

"It is a cancer which is on the increase and timing of diagnosis can have a significant impact on the chances of beating the disease. With a visual mouth cancer examination part of every dental check-up, the importance of regular visits to the dentist extends far more than simply maintaining our teeth and gums.

"Additionally, for those who live with mouth cancer, the on-going dental costs through treatments and frequent check-ups can be quite intensive. Being diagnosed with cancer can be a truly traumatic experience, the last thing we need is for cancer sufferers to be worried about costs they struggle to meet."