10 Aug

9 out of 10 dental practices are not taking on new NHS patients, according to BBC investigation

Nine out of ten UK dental practices are not taking on new NHS patients, according to a BBC investigation.

BBC researchers contacted almost 7,000 dental surgeries across the country as part of the largest survey of providers in the history of NHS dentistry. They found that 90% were not accepting new NHS adult patients and 80% had no vacancies for children. In the worst-affected regions, only 2% of practices were offering appointments for new patients and in some areas, including Norfolk, Devon and Lancashire, the BBC was unable to locate any available spaces. 

Most of the practices contacted by BBC teams did not have a waiting list. Many receptionists said that they were not able to give patients an idea of waiting times. Some patients interviewed by the BBC were told they could be waiting more than two years. In Cornwall, there are practices with waiting times of up to 5 years.

The demand for NHS dental care has soared since practices reopened following closures during the pandemic. Many people haven’t seen a dentist since 2019 or early 2020 and they want to access dental services. There is also a huge backlog of patients waiting for treatment due to cancellations in 2020 and 2021. The British Dental Association (BDA) estimates that more than 40 million appointments were lost due to the pandemic. 

Another factor that is contributing to lengthy waiting times and a shortage of appointments is a decrease in the number of NHS dentists. The BDA claims that around 3,000 dentists have gone private or reduced NHS work in the last two years. Practices are finding it increasingly tough to fill NHS vacancies. 

As more and more people struggle to make appointments, DIY dentistry is becoming increasingly common. Examples of procedures people are attempting at home include using DIY kits to fill teeth, supergluing cracked teeth and damaged crowns and extracting teeth.