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MORE than 11 million British adults have not seen a dentist in the last two years – because even a check-up is too expensive. And more than half the adult population now have teeth missing. Almost eight million patients admit they have not had recommended dental work in the last five years because of the cost.
11 million in U.K. Cannot Afford Dentist
By Victoria Fletcher, Health Editor.
MORE than 11million British adults have not seen a dentist in the last two years – because even a check-up is too expensive.
And more than half the adult population now have teeth missing.
Almost eight million patients admit they have not had recommended dental work in the last five years because of the cost.
The shameful truth about the nation’s dental health follows years of broken promises and badly-managed reforms under Labour.
Almost half the adult population do not have access to an NHS dentist – but even those who do are still being stung by charges that can run into hundreds of pounds per visit.
Patients’ Association chairman Anthony Halperin, a former dentist, said last night: “The Government has never explained why we do not have to pay for medical treatment but we do have to pay for dental treatment.
“Why are teeth thought of as a different part of the body? It is a matter of finance.”
New dentists’ contracts introduced by Labour two years ago have made matters worse for patients, it was claimed yesterday. They were branded “unfair and unlawful” in the High Court, where an orthodontist was demanding a judicial review over the way they were introduced.
Dr Eddie Crouch claimed the contracts were brought in illegally and without proper consultation.
The judge, Mr Justice Andrew Collins, called the contracts “rubbish” and indicated that he agreed the terms were unlawful. Dr Crouch, from Birmingham, said the contracts have made waiting lists even longer. The hearing continues.
The new terms were introduced in 2006 to end the “drill-and-fill” culture. But dentists claim they limit the number of patients they can treat. And there are fears that some dentists fail to carry out more complex procedures such as fitting bridges because the new contracts mean they don’t get paid extra to do it.
In 1999 Tony Blair promised that every adult would have access to an NHS dentist within two years – but the situation is just getting worse.
Lib Dem health spokesman Norman Lamb said yesterday: “The crisis in NHS dentistry is this Government’s hidden legacy. It is unacceptable for dental care to be a luxury for those who can afford it. Despite repeated promises and the much trumpeted 2006 reforms, finding an NHS dentist has become as rare as hen’s teeth.
“When patients do find one, the charging system makes it unaffordable for many of the poor and elderly. As a result, people are ignoring their deteriorating dental health until they reach crisis point.
“We need an urgent review into why the reforms two years ago have done so little to improve access.”
One in seven Britons admit their dental health is poor or extremely poor, according to a market research poll of 1,000 patients aged 16 to 64. More than half have one or two teeth missing. The survey did not show whether patients had NHS or private care, but many still found the costs too high.
At some time between 2006 and 2008, around 30 per cent of patients did not go to the dentist due to cost. And, since 2003, around 20 per cent had decided not to have treatment due to cost. This means 11.3million people have not gone to the dentist since 2006 because they cannot afford it and 7.7million have not had treatment for the same reason since 2003. And 1.29million have gone abroad for dental care in the last five years to save money.
Fears over the state of NHS dentistry have now led to an inquiry by the House of Commons Health Select Committee into the effects of the new dentists’ contracts.
Last night the Government’s chief dental officer Barry Cockcroft said: “Around 8million adults are entitled to free dental care and children are exempt from charges too. We made NHS charges much easier to understand and cut the maximum charge by 50 per cent. Our 12-year-olds have the healthiest teeth in Europe. NHS dentistry is getting better not worse.”
See the full story here: Express