Around 11 million people in England failed to get an NHS dental appointment last year, shocking data suggests.
Industry leaders today warned that the numbers – about one in four adults – show the decaying dental industry is “losing its way.”
Desperate Britons have had to resort to using shoelaces and pliers to pull out their own rotting teeth.
Experts fear the crisis, which began before Covid, will only get worse.
Thousands of NHS dentists have quit during Covid, and industry polls suggest even more dentists are considering going completely private in the near future.
This graph shows the number of dentists carrying out NHS activities each year, the figure fell sharply during the Covid pandemic but has recovered slightly to just over 24,000 according to the latest data
Because of this, people have no choice but to pay huge private costs, without going or doing dangerous DIY procedures. Some have even flown abroad for treatment.
The British Dental Association (BDA) made an appeal today the government and opposition ‘commit’ to action to reform the ‘broken’ service.
A ‘discredited’ contract system is fueling the crisis, the organization said.
It is now being investigated by the Health Council and social care committee.
How much does NHS dentistry cost?
There are 3 NHS loading bands:
Band 1: £23.80
Covers an examination, diagnosis and advice. If necessary, there are also X-rays, a scale and polish, and a schedule for further treatment.
Band 2: £65.20
Covers all treatments from Band 1, plus additional treatments such as fillings, root canal treatments and tooth extraction.
Band 3: £282.80
Includes all treatments from bands 1 and 2, plus more complex procedures, such as crowns, dentures and bridges.
By comparison, check-ups can cost between £20 and £120 from private dentists, according to Which?.
Dentures and bridges can also cost up to £2,520, the consumer watchdog says.
Dentists claim it is no longer financially viable to offer NHS procedures under the current contract due to a lack of government investment.
BDA analysis of the NHS GP Survey 2022 suggests the number of Britons struggling to see an NHS dentist has risen by seven million, up from the four million recorded in 2019.
This accounts for almost one in four adults in England.
About 6 million adults ‘tried and failed’ to get an NHS dental appointment, while 3.6 million tried not ‘to believe an appointment wouldn’t be available’, they said.
A further 1 million people were also put off by the cost of NHS dental costs, and 500,000 more reported being stuck on waiting lists.
The BDA said: “Both the government and the opposition must come forward and offer a plan.”
A spokesperson added: ‘Patients are struggling to get NHS appointments and are also put off by the fear of not getting an appointment or the cost.
‘All parties must make an effort to reverse these trends.
“That must start with pledges to reform the NHS’s discredited dental contract, backed by adequate investment.”
General Dental Practice Committee Chairman Shawn Charlwood said: ‘Every day a broken system remains in place, we are losing dentists, while millions struggle to access care.
“This crisis will not be solved with sound bites or tweaks in the margins. To turn the corner, we need a plan based on real reforms and fair financing.”
He added: ‘NHS dentistry is becoming exhausted.’
Figures obtained by MailOnline last month also show that some parts of England have just one dental practice offering NHS treatment for every 13,000 people.
Antony Watson (pictured above) of Bridlington, had to order a £3.99 dental repair kit delivered the next day to fix his broken tooth
Alex Gray, from Lincolnshire (pictured above), was also forced to pull out six of his teeth himself after failing to find an NHS dentist
Nationally, by early 2023 there was only one NHS dental practice for every 4,975 people.
The figures, informed by LG – a database managed by the Local Government Association (LGA), show that England’s hardest hit borough – Bolsover, Derbyshire – had around 57 times more people for each dental practice than in the area with the best access , City of London.
Two-thirds of people in England have also not seen a dentist for two years, according to NHS Digital’s latest figures on NHS dental activity.
Only 16.4 million people were checked between June 2020 – in the early days of the pandemic – and June 2022, which is equivalent to 36.9 percent of the population.
One of those forced to take matters into his own hands was Antony Watson from Bridlington, Yorkshire.
Mr Watson originally broke his tooth 20 years ago when dentists gave him a crown at the time.
But he damaged it a second time after biting into a cookie.
He said he couldn’t get an NHS appointment because he wasn’t registered with any clinic and ‘absolutely couldn’t afford’ to pay for private treatment ‘on the spot’, forcing him to look elsewhere for a solution.
Mr Watson searched online for home delivery dental kits and chose the £3.99 kit because of its next day delivery advantage.
The kit included a 20g bag of plastic beads, which were then melted with boiling water and molded to fit the shape of your damaged teeth.
Meanwhile, Alex Gray, from Lincolnshire, was also forced to extract six of his teeth himself after failing to find an NHS dentist.
The retired roofer couldn’t find an NHS dentist after moving to Lincolnshire six years ago.
If a tooth “starts to fall out,” he takes painkillers, he said, and “wait until he goes numb,” before trying to pull the tooth out with pliers.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said today: ‘We are working to improve access to NHS dental care by investing more than £3bn a year in dentistry for all NHS patients, but we know that there’s more to do.
‘We enabled NHS dental practices to provide an additional 10 per cent of NHS care on top of their contracts to improve patient access and recently completed work to remove barriers and support dental team members such as therapists and hygienists to use their full skills to be used at the GGD.’
They added: ‘The number of dentists working in the NHS increased by over 500 last year and we recently introduced reforms to pay practices more fairly to also take on high-need patients.’