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Saturday, February 27, 1999 Published at 04:11 GMT


Dental fees 'put off patients'

About 40% of the UK is not registered with a dentist.

Hundreds of thousands of people on low incomes avoid visiting their dentist because they are worried about the cost, according to the British Dental Association (BDA).

Research showed that pensioners and young families were the most affected, and the BDA says the government needs to make changes to help remedy the situation.

The research, carried out for the BDA by the Centre for Dental Services Studies at York University found that some people opted for cheaper treatment where possible.

They would have a tooth extracted rather than having the root filled, for example.

[ image: Patients pay the same, regardless of income]
Patients pay the same, regardless of income
Many also said lengthy benefit forms put them off, especially if they were for reclaiming dental charges which did not amount to much.

The BDA document, NHS dentistry in General Practice, made four main demands:

  • More child-friendly services.

  • The fluoridation of water.

  • The right to issue fluoride mouth rinses on prescription.
  • Those not entitled to benefit but still low income get financial support towards costs.

The maximum NHS charge for treatment is £340, and the average cost of a visit to the dentist is £20 - £30.

But patients on a relatively low income pay the same as the more affluent.

The BDA said it wanted patients to be able to pay the maximum charge over a period of time rather than in one lump sum.

It also said government financial assistance would persuade thousands more people to visit their dentist.

"We believe that this would help improve their oral health, said Chairman of the BDA's General Dental Services Committee Dr Anthony Kravitz.

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