Political parties face call for ‘effective response to the crisis facing dentistry’

23 February, 2021 / infocus
 Will Peakin  

The number of children seen by a dentist between May and December 2020 was around a quarter of the 2018-19 average, according statistics published today by Public Health Scotland.

Between September and November 2020, the number of adults seen was around a third of the 2018-19 average, before falling to 28 per cent of the 2018-19 average in December 2020.

Release of the statistics has prompted a call from the British Dental Association Scotland for “all political parties to set out an effective response to the crisis facing dentistry”.

Lower levels of attendance will “inevitably translate into a higher disease burden,” said the BDA. It added: “Early signs of decay and oral cancers are picked up at routine check-ups, and delays will mean both higher costs to the NHS and worse outcomes for patients. 

“Dental care in Scotland is now facing crises on many fronts, with deep oral health inequalities expected to widen even further, given the cumulative impact of limited access to services, the suspension of public health programmes, and the impact of lockdown diets.”

The pioneering Childsmile programme has not fully resumed, with many key elements, such as supervised brushing, delivered via schools and nurseries.

Recent announcements by Scottish dental schools that many final year students will not graduate in 2021 and that schools will also not be in a position to take on new undergraduates, are likely to have wide-ranging effects on the NHS workforce for years to come.   

While both the Welsh and Northern Irish governments have set aside ring-fenced investment to improve practice ventilation – and thereby increase patient numbers while meeting tight COVID restrictions – no commitments have yet been made by the Scottish Government and the BDA said it was waiting for “clear guidance” for practices.  

Robert Donald, Chair of the British Dental Association’s Scottish Council said: “These numbers underline the scale of the challenge ahead. Millions have missed out on dentistry. Problems that could have been caught early, from decay to oral cancer, have been missed.  

“Scotland’s huge oral health inequalities cannot be allowed to widen. Every party heading into May’s election now has a responsibility to set out how they will ensure families across Scotland can get the care they need.”  

Tags: Covid-19

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