True Picture Of Dental Delays Revealed

True Picture Of Dental Delays Revealed

Access to dentistry is the most delayed of all the health services, according to new research carried out by the Oral Health Foundation (OHF).

A random survey of over 2,000 British adults found that almost half (45%) had experienced delays to their dental appointments over the past 12 months.

Now the OHF is calling on ministers to promptly  address the issue of backed up dental appointments and provide the support that NHS dentistry needs in order to “get back on track.” The charity is requesting  a funding boost for dentistry.

The data collected by the OHF showed less severe delays to access in GP surgeries (30%), hospital services (16%) and mental health support (11%).

The OHF said latest figures suggest that as many as 20 million dental appointments have been delayed or cancelled since March 2020.

The results from this latest survey appear to be more reflective of the true extent of the NHS dental situation than the study published recently by Healthwatch.  That survey drew hysterical headlines from newspapers which proclaimed three-year waits for dental appointments were common.

GDPUK found the Healthwatch survey to be flawed, being based on a survey which only questioned participants who had complained to the watchdog.

The Oral Health Foundation say that one-in-ten (12%) people have accessed remote dentistry services in the last 12 months. This includes telephone advice, video calls and emails with their dental team.

Some dentists have expressed anxiety at carrying out consultations via video and telephone calls, since they are not clear on their position with regard to obtaining informed consent, as confirmed in a survey of members carried out by the Dental Defence Union and reported by GDUPK.

Despite the ease of remote advice services, the OHF says three-in-four (74%) say they prefer physical appointments with their dental team. 

Perhaps not surprisingly, this was much higher than for general health, where just over half (59%) said that they would prefer physical appointments.

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation, believes that vital funding and support is needed for NHS dentistry to avoid the nation sleepwalking into an oral health crisis.

Dr Carter said “Dentistry has been severely underfunded for many years and services have suffered greatly during the pandemic.  To address the backlog caused by COVID-19 restrictions, and to ensure dentistry does not fall behind other crucial health services, now is the time for government to provide more funding and invest in the nation’s oral health.”

“Regular dental visits are key for maintaining good oral health. Dentists can spot oral health problems in the early stages and provide patients with advice and care that can save them from both invasive and expensive treatments later down the line.

“Dentists also conduct potentially life-saving mouth cancer checks as part of every routine appointment. Many people are unaware when it comes to mouth cancer symptoms and how to look for it and therefore the only mouth cancer check they’d get is when they have their regular appointment.”

“Dental professionals have done an excellent job adapting during the pandemic in spite of very difficult challenges.  The good news is that many dentists, dental hygienists and therapists, are now able to see fare more patients than they were last summer, and the range of treatments available should be back to normal,” Dr Carter added.

The research was commissioned by the Oral Health Foundation as part of National Smile Month.

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