6 Sep 2017

Following a BBC News analysis that discovered half of dental practices on the NHS Choices website were not accepting new patients in England, leading health charity the Oral Health Foundation wants to see more investment and funding put into NHS dentistry.

The charity supports calls declaring the figures as an "emerging crisis" in dental care in England and want to see the government act urgently to prevent the problem increasing further. 

This comes as a BBC News analysis of 2,500 dental practices on the NHS Choices website found half were not accepting new adult NHS patients, while two-fifths were not accepting new child NHS patients.

Speaking on these findings, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter OBE, said: "Much of this problem stems from continued cost cutting by the government on NHS dental provisions in England, leaving them dangerously underfunded. 

"We have consistently seen funding reduced in real terms for NHS dentists for many years while the population they are serving continues to grow. Many NHS dentists are simply unable to help the people they need to due to the restrictions placed upon them.

"Most dentist are self-employed and therefore the government does not contribute to essential elements, such as staffing and materials, they would need to treat everybody though the NHS dentistry model. 

"The NHS dental system is vastly underfunded and without urgent action from the government we will only continue to see the problem grow." 

The number of dentists doing NHS work has increased by 20% over the past decade and more than £3bn a year is spent each year on providing NHS dental care, according to Public Health England, representing about 3% of the total NHS budget in England, but this is only roughly half of what is actually required in terms of funding. 

"The BBC are reporting that desperate people are resting to drastic measures, such as pulling their own teeth out. This is incredibly disturbing and something which should not be happening in the modern world," Dr Carter continued.

"One important thing to consider is that dentists are not A&E services and far too many people only turn to them when something is wrong. Prevention is better than the cure and by attending regular dental check-ups we will be less likely to face serious issues in the future."

In England, the cost of an NHS dental check-up is £20.60, patients are able to get free dental care if they are under 18, or under 19 and in full-time education, or are pregnant or have given birth in the past 12 months. Some people receiving certain types of benefits are also exempt.