The body that represents NHS patients in England has expressed concerns about the state of dentistry in the NHS.
Healthwatch England has published a survey revealing that 49 per cent of respondents felt NHS charges for dentistry were unfair, while the growing number of practitioners going private has led to many having to go private or suffer ongoing problems.
Among common concerns were that 41 per cent found it hard to book treatment to begin with, with 20 per cent unable to get what they needed. 24 per cent went private to get the treatment they required.
National director of Healthwatch England Louise Ansari said: “There is now a deepening crisis in dental care, leaving people struggling to get treatment or regular check-ups on the NHS.”
For some, going private may be the best way forward, while another option is to buy items you can use at home yourself, such as kits to produce teeth impressions.
Among the concerns NHS dental service users have been worried about is the lack of transparency that exists in charging, with 17 per cent saying their dentist did not explain the cost of treatment before carrying it out, while 12 per cent experienced higher charges than those advertised by the NHS.
While there are concerns about the availability of NHS services for those on low incomes, those who can afford to pay may need to look to private dentists anyway, as around 2,000 practitioners a year are switching away from the NHS.
Some of the recent problems have been made worse by the cost of living crisis, as well as Covid, with many not getting appointments during the worst of the pandemic due to health fears and dentists themselves being limited in how many appointments they could deliver due to the restrictions.
The General Dental Council unveiled guidelines in February aimed at organising a transition back to normal levels of dental care, which may be easier to do as summer approaches and Covid infection rates plunge.