7.4 million people have failed to gain access to an NHS dentist in the last 2 years. A worrying trend has grown with people resorting to DIY surgery in an attempt to avoid costly private dentistry, including pulling teeth using pliers. Currently 35% of adults are struggling to get the dental care they require, up from 23% last year.
This month’s British Medical Journal drew attention to the even more worrying plight of more than 30,000 children given emergency treatment in dental hospitals since 1997 in order to remove teeth or combat decay. The peak age for this emergency treatment is 5, as parents struggle to afford the costs of preventative dentistry; and this situation is only likely to get worse during the economic downturn, as the Times reports parents are choosing school shoes over their children’s dental hygiene.
Blame for this dentistry crisis can be shared around, but the problems have been horribly inflated by Labour dental reforms in 2006. Intended to increase the public’s access to NHS dentists, by putting a cap on the cost of available treatments, it has backfired terribly. Prior to 2006, 6% of dentist’s income came from private patients, this now stands at 58%, and in the last 4 years tooth extraction has risen by 30% as dentists find it more profitable to pull a tooth than to save it; they are paid the same by the NHS for one filling as six. Before the contract was introduced, the average cost for a check up was £5.54 and a filling about £10. Since 2006 this cost of a check up has risen to £15.90 and a filling £43.60.
With NHS dentistry in this state, it is incredible that the NHS is offering money as a bribe to get fat people to lose weight; taxpayers subsidise ‘pay-not-to-eat’ schemes while forced to become DIY dentists. People should not have to consider tooth loss as the better option over treatment because the Department of Health is unable to manage NHS budgets. In the long run this will be all the more costly to taxpayers when they have to foot the bill for DIY operations gone bad.