Improved access but poorer quality NHS dental care

ACCESS to NHS dentistry has improved but patients believe quality is poorer, according to a new survey.

Fewer people are struggling to find an NHS dentist – 29 per cent this year compared to 39 per cent last year – but many criticised the quality. The Simplyhealth study of 10,000 UK respondents showed 18 per cent of people thought the NHS didn’t cover as much as it used to while 17 per cent feel they don’t receive the same level of treatment. A further fifth of people said they are not being asked to see their dentist as regularly.

The survey also highlighted concerns over cost as 40 per cent of respondents said they have delayed seeing a dentist because they can’t afford it. One in four admitted they haven’t been to the dentist for 18 months while one in nine hadn’t been for more than five years.

Fear may also be a factor as one fifth of people said they were scared of their dentist while one in 10 adults have avoided the dentist because they are too embarrassed by the state of their teeth.

Findings also showed that people think going to the dentist is too expensive, they do not know exactly what treatments dentists offer and they do not take their children to the dentist often enough. Half of parents admitted they have taken their child to the dentist too late, with more than one in 10 children needing a filling before the age of five.

James Glover from Simplyhealth, which offers health plans and insurance, said: "Individuals and families are now able to see a dentist much more easily, which is great. However, it's worrying that cost is forcing so many people to delay seeing their dentists, especially as NHS dental charges increased at the beginning of April.”

The firm is calling for more to be done to educate people about oral health. Simplyhealth dental adviser Michael Thomas added: “The perceived drop in the quality of treatment that patients receive is really unfortunate as the NHS is doing such a good job of increasing the number of people its dentists see.”