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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 November, 2004, 06:11 GMT
Heading for dental disaster
The BBC's Sophie Hutchinson reports from a dental surgery in Clapham
Sophie Hutchinson at a new - private - dental surgery

Reforms intended to give more people access to NHS dentists may end up having the opposite effect - according to an official report into the government's plans.

The proposed changes into the way dentists are paid could mean they do even less work for the NHS, according to a damning report by the National Audit Office.

  • This morning, Breakfast asks: why is dentistry in Britain so difficult?

  • Sophie Hutchinson reported live from a dental surgery in South London.

    The surgery Sophie Hutchinson visited in Clapham is brand new, but it only takes private patients.

    We found out why from the man who's just set it up - Dr Nikhil Sisodia. And, we talked to Ian Wylie of the British Dental Association

  • We had a huge number of e-mails - from patients and dentists.

    What you told Breakfast
    I was "sacked" by my dentist nearly 18 months ago, when I refused to take out a 15 a month insurance policy. I pointed out that I was on Incapacity Benefit and the file was closed, I was no longer a patient!
    James Robertson, Cheshire

    A new charging structure, due to come into force next Autumn, is intended to put an end to the system of paying for each individual piece of work.

    Critics say that's encouraged dentists to "drill and fill", rather than working on preventative treatments for their patients.

    But, according to the National Audit Office, dentists may end up scaling back their NHS work, because they're sceptical about the new payment system.

    And they're concerned that the new system will encourage "under treatment" rather than over treatment.

    At the moment, only 41% of adults are registered with a dentist at all.

    Many people choose to ignore their teeth until they're in pain - but in some areas, it's almost impossible to find an NHS dentist.

    In an attempt to combat shortages, the government has already increased training places and recruited 1,000 new dentists.

    The reforms to NHS dentistry apply in England and Wales only. Scotland has its own system.

    Finding a dentist

    We've had a lot of e-mails this morning from people who are having trouble finding a dentist to take them on.

  • NHS Gateway offers an interactive search, by postcode, so that you can find out which dentists are registering NHS patients in your area.

    Read the notes carefully, as many are limiting registration to certain catetories of patients.

  • We have also been told that your local Patient Advisory and Liaison Service (PALS) has lists of NHS dentists in your area.

  • BBC Breakfast


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