Fewer than half of children saw an NHS dentist in the past year as parts of the country become “dental deserts”, analysis reveals. Research commissioned by the Liberal Democrats found only 44 percent of youngsters saw an NHS dentist in the last 12 months and just one third of adults in the past two years. In some parts of England there was just one NHS dentist per 3,000 people. And six in 10 areas had seen a rise in patients per dentist since 2019.
Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey is to call for an NHS dental healthcare plan today – to ensure everyone can access affordable treatment.
Proposals include spending what the party says is £400million of NHS dental funding that went unspent this year in order to boost the number of appointments.
Sir Ed said: “The staggering rise in dental deserts has left far too many people struggling to get an appointment.
“It is heartbreaking that people are being left waiting in pain for months or even years. Many are being forced to shell out thousands of pounds on private dental care, while some are even turning in desperation to DIY dentistry.
“We need to make sure everyone can see a dentist on the NHS when they need to.”
Other Lib Dem suggestions include reforms to the NHS dental contract, more mobile units to visit schools and the removal of VAT on kids’ toothbrushes and toothpaste.
The analysis found that there is an average of 2,330 people per NHS dentist in England. North Lincs, as of 2021/22, has just one NHS dentist for every 3,199 people – the highest ratio.
British Dental Association chair Eddie Crouch said: “The true scale of the exodus from the NHS is going untracked in official data.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “There were over 500 more dentists delivering NHS care in 2022 than in 2021, but we know there is more to do. We will be announcing further measures to improve access.”
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