Page last updated at 09:30 GMT, Thursday, 21 August 2008 10:30 UK

Dentists 'pull out more teeth'

Dental work

Dentists are more likely to pull teeth out or fit false ones than provide fillings or crowns under an NHS deal introduced two years ago, figures show.

In England, treatments that included dentures increased from 38% to 48% between 2003/04 and 2007/08 and extractions from 7% to 8%.

But the number of crowns fell from 48% to 35% and fillings from 28% to 26%.

The figures also showed fewer patients being treated, despite more dentists joining the NHS after the new contract.

Overall, 27m patients were seen by an NHS dentist in England during the past two years - 1.1m fewer than the previous two years.

Those that are able to access care are confronted with a system that discourages modern, preventive care by placing targets, rather than patients, at its heart
Susie Sanderson, British Dental Association

But there were 655 more dentists doing NHS work in 2007/08 than in the previous year - an increase of 3.2%.

Similar trends in the type of dental work being done were reported for Wales, although there was no increase in the amount of dentures fitted.

The proportion of treatments in Wales which included teeth being taken out increased from around 8% to just over 9% and the number of crowns fell from 44% to 35%.

The figures from the NHS Information Centre also show regional differences in the amount of NHS work done by dentists.

Those in South Central Strategic Health Authority spent 56% of their time on NHS work compared with 84% in the North East.

Contractual arrangements

The new dental contract, introduced in April 2006, was intended to allow dentists to spend more time with NHS patients in a bid to make the profession more attractive.

Costs to the NHS for dental treatment increased by 56m to 531m in 2007/08 - an increase of 12% on the previous year.

Tim Straughan, chief executive of the NHS Information Centre said: "These reports show the most comprehensive picture of NHS dentistry to date under the new contractual arrangements.

"As a qualified dentist myself, it is interesting to see how a typical course of dental treatment is changing."

Chief Dental Officer Dr Barry Cockcroft said the figures showed NHS dentistry was "on the road to recovery".

"Our challenge is encouraging people to visit their dentist for regular check ups, even if they feel they don't need to.

"There is also a perception amongst the public that there is a growing lack of NHS dentists and these latest statistics prove that there is actually more and more NHS dentistry services opening around the country."

But Susie Sanderson, chair of the BDA's Executive Board, said there were still "significant problems".

"Those that are able to access care are confronted with a system that discourages modern, preventive care by placing targets, rather than patients, at its heart.

"The apparent change in treatment patterns is also of concern and requires further investigation so that the impact of the new contract is fully understood."

Shadow health minister Mike Penning added that over a million people had lost their dentist and the decline was continuing.

"Ministers need to stop dithering, admit that their new dental contract has been a complete failure, and take action to make good their pledge to give everyone access to an NHS dentist."


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