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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 February, 2004, 10:04 GMT
Can NHS dental access be improved?
Long queues have formed outside a new NHS dental practice in Scarborough, North Yorkshire as people attempt to register at the surgery.

The practice is due to be opened by a new dentist moving to the town from Holland who hopes to register 3,000 new NHS patients.

The chairman of the British Dental Association, John Renshaw, who is also a local dentist, has said the queues reflect the crisis in NHS dental provision.

What do you think? Can anything be done to improve the NHS dental service? Have you had problems registering with a dentist?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

The following comments reflect the balance of views we have received:

Too many people make no contribution to their own dental care
Ryan B, Scotland
Stop moaning and pay for services for a change! So many people want something for nothing, and too many people make no contribution to their own dental care - i.e. poor hygiene, poor diet.....the list is endless. I have gone to a private dentist as the NHS one I had was so poor at the repair work I can hardly believe the difference! Yes it is hard to find the money, but the level of care cannot be compared.
Ryan B, Scotland

I wouldn't mind paying privately if I was not taxed so heavily. What have I seen for last year's National Insurance rises - nothing.
Tony Humphreys, Prestatyn, UK

I can't understand these people who only see a dentist when something goes wrong. I see my NHS dentist twice year for a check up and scale and polish. The greatest thing my dentist did was to recommend regular flossing as well as cleaning my teeth - it has meant much less work for him to do. It's a pity that doctors don't do more regular checks to detect problems earlier.
Roger Jackson, Stockport, England

Even if you are registered with an NHS dentist the chances are that greed will eventually get the better of them and they will turn private as mine has recently done. If they have been trained at our expense in the first place could the government not look into a scheme where dentists repay the cost of their training before being allowed to rake in the cash?
Paul Weston, Hampton

It sold out quicker than a Madonna concert!
Richard, Brighton, UK
A similar case occurred in Brighton not so long ago. A new NHS dentist opened for 500 patients. It sold out quicker than a Madonna concert! People were queuing overnight to make sure they got on the register. I now pay for private treatment as there was no alternative. Mr Blair / Mr Brown - can I have an NI reduction please?
Richard, Brighton, UK

In Bristol it is impossible to get on to get dental treatment on the NHS. My boyfriend has broken two teeth, and can't do anything about it unless he becomes some student dentist's guinea pig or goes private, and we can collectively shudder about how much that costs. Now, remind me why we pay taxes and National Insurance?!!!
Annabel, Bristol

I graduated in 1969 as a dentist and have never seen a private patient. There's nothing an NHS dentist can't provide that's required for oral health. My pension won't be huge but at least I can sleep at night knowing I haven't ripped anyone off for the past 30 odd years. I only wanted job satisfaction and have never been motivated by money. Those of you requiring dentures, please don't be fooled by the so-called denturists. They are working illegally and robbing pensioners by saying they are cheaper than the NHS.
Anon, UK

Like the GP, why is a dentist simply not paid a salary to look after a certain number of patients. Instead of the current system where by their earnings are based upon how many teeth they fill or braces they fit.
Suresh Kerai, London

Training thousands more hygienists and dental therapists is the sensible solution for a low cost service
Gillie, London
Many dentists prefer to spend their time creating beautiful smiles on patients who appreciate their skill. Do not expect dentists to flock back to the NHS to treat smelly breath and rotten teeth. The job has changed and the genie is out of the bottle. Training thousands more hygienists and dental therapists is the sensible solution for a low cost service. And let's be honest, does anyone think that a national fee can work? Patients in London should expect to pay at least 3 times the fee in Scarborough for the dentist to enjoy the same lifestyle.
Gillie, London

I am lucky in that I have an NHS dentist, but the practice also does private dentistry and it seems that the people that can afford these fees are getting a preferential service. If I want an early or a late appointment to fit in with my work etc. I now have to pay these private fees. Seems a little unfair as I am not allowed time off for dental appointments!
Sarah, Nottingham

I was without an NHS dentist for 8 years. Moving down to London from Preston in the next few weeks, I'm keeping my dentist here. I just can't take the risk of not finding one in London. There you go - 180 mile trip for a dentist!
Gary McCartney, UK

Before moving to the USA last April. I had trouble registering with a NHS dentist. Although I could have afforded to have gone private, my attitude was. "Why should I? I pay tax and national insurance every week". Dental care is part of personal health care. If neglected it can cause various serious diseases to other parts of the human body. (Ask a dentist). These dentists were trained largely at public expense and I believe they should have to serve a certain period working for the NHS. Dental services over here in the USA are far superior to the services offered in the UK but the cost is astronomical. Ok we get tax breaks on that but that's another story.
Brian McInnes, Shrewsbury, Pennsylvania, USA

As someone who takes care of my teeth and hasn't had to use a dentist I think the virtual removal of dentists from NHS care is brilliant. I'm not having to pay for lazy people who think the NHS is free. When people are forced to pay for things like dental care they will take more care of themselves. The primary responsibility for one's teeth should be with the individual and not the state. I say remove all dentists from the NHS and force people to take responsibility for themselves.
Martin, England

As child I had my teeth checked regularly at school. I had good teeth because sugar was still rationed until 1953.

Yet another example of the erosion of a service gone into the pockets of those who pay rather than those who need
Madamd, London
As the years have gone by, the system of excellent dentistry has become history: yet another example of the erosion of a service gone into the pockets of those who pay rather than those who need.
Madamd, London

There is always a difference between the private and NHS dental service and what can be provided under the NHS. The biggest improvement to the dental service I can see is to provide better education in dental care, with regular brushing and cleaning of a person's teeth would reduce demands on the dental service. Spending perhaps £100.00 a year on dental products can save money in the long forecast. I'm very sure every Dentist would welcome money spent on a government education program.
Ron, Middlesbrough

If all the UK's tap water was fluoridated, maybe the NHS could afford better treatment for fewer dental problems...
Marc Brett, Richmond, UK

The answer to this problem is simple if the NHS cannot supply sufficient numbers of dentists. We should all visit private dentists and be able to claim the fees back from the NHS.
Sheila, Devon/UK

Hooray, someone's noticed this at last. This has been declining for years. Like many people I voted Labour at the last election for a change, across the NHS amongst other things. I work pay my taxes, and yet they seem to have not changed a thing. Perhaps it's time as a country we had a rethink about how our money is spent from taxes. Surely this is what a democracy is about.
Neil, England

NHS dentists have been a rare breed for quite sometime now. I guess that in a very short time, just like opticians, each and every dentist will be private with little or no commitment to the NHS. I don't blame dentists for going Private as we all live in a consumer oriented world and if the Government NHS fees are poor then why should they provide NHS treatment?
Kumar, Luton

NHS dentists, what are they? If my two children want to be seen by a hygienist then we have to pay. My wife recently had an abscess and ultimately had to have the tooth removed some £350.00 later. Yet, if you go to a Doctor in pain you are not expected to pay again for something that you have already contributed towards in tax and National Insurance.
Philip Horler, High Wycombe Bucks

When people are willing to spend more money on a night out than they will on their own health, there is something seriously wrong
S. Althaf, London, UK
To all those people who think that medical and dental professionals should be forced to work for the NHS after graduation, why is it that we do not hear the same about lawyers, accountants, stockbrokers, in fact anyone at all who went to college? And why stop there, what about the building trades, plumbers, locksmiths etc? When people are willing to spend more money on a night out than they will on their own health, there is something seriously wrong.
S. Althaf, London, UK

I have a dentist whose practice is private and the cost extortionate, but it is just round the corner and convenient. I pay private health care and can claim most of the cost. The dentistry is first class, the pain almost non existent. I sent my son to an NHS dentist when he was 17, they butchered his mouth. I now pay private health care for him and my husband. I guess at the end of the day you get what you pay for.
A. Hender, Walsall, England

I have been registered with the same NHS dentist as long as I can remember but they recently decided to go private. At the moment my treatment is free because I am in full time education but I intend to register with another NHS dentist as soon as I reach a point when I must begin to pay. My parents tried to find an NHS dentist but were unsuccessful and so have been forced to pay for their treatment. I expect that I will encounter similar problems.

There are no NHS dentists in Cirencester. I was using the community dentist at our local hospital but they will not let you book in advance. The last time I tried to book an appointment with him, I was told that I would have to join the waiting list to make an appointment! I waited for 14 months to make an appointment and then gave up. I am now registered with the nearest NHS dentist taking new patients which is 17 miles away. At least I am getting my teeth checked now.
K. Sharp, Cirencester, England

I am registered with an NHS dentist. They are always short staffed and have a high turnover. Additionally they are so fast that I am in and out within minutes, and on top of that I have to pay a minimum of £10. Even though I am not happy with the service I receive I can't vote with my feet and go elsewhere as there is no where else to go. This system is mad.
Fiona, Cambridge

I am a dentist. The government announced billions to enable "back to the NHS". I need a few thousand to refurbish a surgery to allow NHS patients to be seen here. Where are these billions?
Nigel Newton, Weston-super-Mare

It looks as if some Primary Care Trusts care more about dentistry than others
Jane F, Cambridge, UK
I had no trouble getting onto my dentist's NHS list. I have an appointment for a scale and polish every three months and a check up twice a year. There was no problem when my husband decided he wanted to change dentists either - he called and was given an appointment for two weeks later. It looks as if some Primary Care Trusts care more about dentistry than others - it's obviously a priority for ours.
Jane F, Cambridge, UK

My NHS dentist announced that he had "gone private" during my last appointment. As I currently have dental insurance with work, this is not a problem for me at the moment, but could be in the future. I did notice that my private dental hygiene appointment was twice the length of my old NHS one, and carried out work that had never been mentioned before...
Lynne, Rufford, Lancashire

I haven't seen a dentist for 15 years. There's something to be said for brushing your teeth.
Colin Smith, London/UK

The dentist my family have used for 15 years is going private from June 2004.The nearest dentist taking NHS patients is in Lincoln 40 miles away
Don D'Costa, Grimsby , N E Lincs

I didn't even realise there was such a thing as an NHS dentist any more except for the young and those others entitled to free dental treatment.
Richard, High Wycombe

Dentists who do not offer a service for NHS patients have been trained at the taxpayers' expense. They should have to repay the cost of the educational subsidy spent on them through personal taxation if they leave the NHS.
Michael Knapp, Harrow, London

Personally, I can't see the problem with Private Dentists
John, England
Personally, I can't see the problem with Private Dentists - I pay less than £7 per month, and for that small sum I get two appointments per year with the Hygienist, and two with the Dentist, plus any ad-hoc treatment that I might require. No hidden extras, and a brilliant service.
John, England

I haven't visited a dentist in the last 10 years since leaving school. Although when I do go on holiday to India I do have my teeth cleaned and checked for the price a tube of tooth paste. But I'm a believer in investing in long-term health care. That's why I married a soon to be dentist. You cant be get more private than that.
Dan, Edgware, UK

Dentists are only accepting patients on a private basis. An NHS dentist gives very little time/attention to patients even though the patient is paying around 80% of the cost of the treatment. They just do not want to know you if you are not private.
Mary Hayes, London

Having found a good NHS dentist for our family we were recently told the practice was going to improve services by going private. They would continue to offer free NHS treatment to our children but only if my wife and I signed up to their dental plan!! Emotional blackmail?
Rob, Eaton Bray, UK

Until recently, I had not been to a dentist for 30 years, (through phobia more than wilful neglect), and was suffering the consequences. Having read all the stories of people being unable to register with an NHS dentist, I was expecting a great deal of difficulty finding someone to take me on to their books. Much to my surprise, I found an NHS dentist who was only too happy for me to register with them, and is more than willing to help me overcome my phobia.
Al, Farnborough UK

A friend of mine went for a wisdom tooth extraction at a hospital in Kent. She was advised there is currently a three year waiting list! Plain madness.
Rob Holman, Chislehurst, Kent, England

Why can't we get help with fees charged by private dentists? One filling and check- up; £102.00?
Paul Carter, Tewkesbury, Glos.

The question is how many dentists received their training, at university and dental college, at the public expense? Part of the dental training programme must be a requirement for all dentists trained at the public expense to provide dental treatment on the NHS for a period of at least five years before being allowed to provide private treatment only. It is simply called return on capital expended.
Ken Armitage, Ipswich, Suffolk

With regard to the appalling shortage of NHS dentists, it seems absurd that the state should pay for dental training
John Rose, Whitehill, Hants
With regard to the appalling shortage of NHS dentists, it seems absurd that the state should pay for dental training with no obligation thereafter for a dentist to give any dental service to the health service. I think that UK qualification should oblige a dentist wishing to practice in this country to work an audited significant percentage, say 50% NHS for 10 years, before being able to opt into the more lucrative money driven sector.
John Rose, Whitehill, Hants

I haven't been to a dentist in years as it's always been too expensive to pay for checkups and treatment, though I've always sent my children regularly. Now I've moved area, the new dentist refuses to treat my children unless I'm registered and make a down payment! Its blackmail! When are dentists going to be brought in line and put patient care first instead of their wallets?
Liza, Kent. U.K

My mother of 77 needed an urgent appointment recently because a crown had come off. She contacted the dental practice that she had been registered with since she was a child only to be told that because she hadn't been for just over 15 months she had been taken off the list. When questioned she was told that it was now Government policy. Unfortunately for my mother it wasn't a Government policy that had been well publicised! She is now on a two month waiting list to see another NHS dentist in the area having had her crown repaired privately. And we call this progress!!
Jan Walker, Eastleigh, Hampshire

Two years ago, my dentist died. I asked my local NHS Authority for a list of dentists. After I had phoned all the dentists on the list, guess what; all where Private Dentists and not NHS.
Stefan Green, Sutton Coldfield

Our dentist left the NHS over three years ago and we have been paying privately ever since to stay on their books.
Martin Smedley, Manchester UK

In the town where my wife and I live (a rural community in Cambridgeshire) there is one NHS dentist who went private years ago, so we changed to another NHS dentist in a town 10 miles away who went private 18 months ago. There is not one NHS dentist locally within a 10 mile radius, as far as I am aware, who doesn't have a waiting list less than six months!
Graham Fearn, Cambridgeshire, UK

The lack of a proper NHS dental service needs to be addressed in all parts of the country - what are the government doing about this? My NHS dentist practice is about to close. The local Trust claim that there are four practices in my area willing to take my practice's patients as NHS patients. They also say that they expect the population of the town I live in to increase. Where is the logic in closing a practice if that is the case?
Fiona Wherrett, Livingston, Scotland

I think there is a definite postcode lottery regarding health services here
Dave, Manchester
I think there is a definite postcode lottery regarding health services here. I've just come back from my dentist, it was fairly quiet and I managed to make a return appointment within the month. I've taken this for granted because I've used the practice all my life. What if I move, I fear if I move area I'll have to go private. Why should that be? What happened to 'free and equal healthcare for all?'
Dave, Manchester

Having just moved into the area last year, we are struggling to find a dentist we can use. There are only a handful of dentists in Fort William as it is and they are all currently closed to new patients, with waiting lists to join stretching into years. The next nearest dentist is in Oban, over an hour away, and they "give preference" to people in the immediate vicinity. So what chance do we have, unless we pay to go "private"? Hopeless.
Paul, Fort William, Scotland

I stayed registered with my NHS dentist in England when I moved to Scotland. They have gone private now. The scandal is that dental insurance plans cost about £10 a month, this is much more than I'm paying for pet insurance! Go figure.
Soph, Scotland

Save money on sweets etc, and pay 40.00 a month for Dental Insurance for myself and my wife. Good prompt treatment, and no worries about dental bills.
Phil, Bracknell. UK

We moved into the area 10 months ago, and put ourselves on every local NHS dentist's waiting list - still waiting...
Alex, Swansea, UK

I just looked on the NHS website
Max Hammond, Leamington Spa, UK
I've never had any trouble with finding a dentist willing to sign me on as an NHS patient. Most recently, I just looked on the NHS website, found a list of those taking on new patients, and the first one on the list took me. Five minutes from my house. Can't ask for better.
Max Hammond, Leamington Spa, UK

It should be illegal for a dentist to buy an NHS practice and turn it into a private one as what has happened recently to one practice in Northampton. If they want to open a private practice by all means do it, but they should have to start from scratch.
Anon, Northampton, UK

Dental training should be paid for totally by the government. In return dentists should be required to do at least two years in NHS practice before going private. The increased availability of NHS dentists will make private dentistry less attractive as well.
David R, Plymouth

I have been five years without access to NHS dental services and the work can no longer wait. I now have bills of about £1000 for necessary work which would not have been necessary at all had NHS care been available when needed.
Martin Bucknall, Glasgow

There is absolutely no way I could ever afford private dental care
Anon, Staffs, UK
10 years ago I was lucky enough to have a friend who worked in a dental surgery and I got on their NHS list through him. I now live in Staffs and the only hope I have of getting NHS treatment is through my boyfriend who has a mate who is a dentist. There is absolutely no way I could ever afford private dental care. It's a sad day when the old line "It's who you know" applies to getting your teeth seen to!!
Anon, Staffs, UK

Two years ago I queued up for three hours to join a NHS dentist who was opening his books to take on a few new NHS patients. It was on a first come - first served basis and the queue stretched a very long way. My dentist has now announced that once all current treatments have ended, all NHS treatment for adult patients will cease. Either we find another dentist or we go private.
Andrew Slater, Southampton

The last time I had to see a dentist it cost me £50 to be seen promptly. I am lucky that I can pay this but I dread to think what would happen if I couldn't. All I can say is that this is just another symptom of this country 'going to the dogs'.
Steven Ford, Rochester

Here in Gloucestershire, at the last count we had four or five Dentists taking on NHS patients. In a county of just over half a million people (Census 2001) that's 100,000 patients per Dentist...
Andy Edgeworth, Gloucester, UK

My 27 year old wife is currently seven months pregnant and has been with the same dentist since birth. They have recently told her that they will no longer be offering NHS services to her but only to benefit related cases. Unfortunately, she has been unable to locate any other dentist in the area who is accepting new NHS patients. This on the back of free NHS services for pregnant ladies!! Are dentists really that poorly paid or are mirages of Mercedes Benz's in Employee's car parks now common place in the UK.
Mark Elliker, Walsall, England

I was lucky enough to find an NHS dentist just around the corner from my old workplace. Despite having moved workplaces, I am still registered with him as the NHS practices around my home and new workplace are not taking on new patients. It's ridiculous.
Heather, UK

They fitted me in virtually straight away, problem sorted and it didn't cost that much either
Michelle Taylor, Farnborough, Hants
I had tooth ache and hadn't been to the dentist since I had my last child (when it was free for me) I rang my local dentist in town and they fitted me in virtually straight away, problem sorted and it didn't cost that much either. She was extremely nice and I am now on their books with the rest of my family.
Michelle Taylor, Farnborough, Hants

I had toothache and went to an NHS dentist at the end of my road for the first time. They registered me and gave me an appointment the next day. I'm all fixed up now - I found the service excellent.
Tom, Wandsworth, London

My boyfriend recently went to his dentist and was told that for his next check-up he would have to pay for private treatment because he would be over 25! Do dentists suddenly think you are made of money because you reach 25 years old? He now has the unenviable task of finding another NHS dentist.
Clare, Cambridge, UK

It's only going to get worse. As we force students to graduate with huge amounts of debt they aren't going to want to work within the NHS when they can earn more privately and they won't have any reason to pay society back for their education when they've paid for it themselves.
Karen, Leicester, UK

I moved to the area nearly four years ago when I started University and I was really worried about finding a dentist after hearing all the nightmare tales of not being able to get on the NHS lists. I phoned three or four dentists in the area and all said there would be no problem at all. I have no problem getting an appointment and am fairly happy with the service. However, I am one of the lucky ones. Instead taking the effort to write to the BBC why don't all of these disgruntled people write to their MPs demanding something be done. It may be futile but you never know, it just might work!
Kate, Dronfield, Derbys

I was with a local NHS dentist for 14 years, until they were sold to a large private group. They stopped all NHS treatment. I am now with another private dentist, but they have NHS available - of a far lower standard than the private treatment. Both dentists claim the NHS does not let them use the best equipment or materials, and does not allow enough time for specialist treatment, such as root canal work.
Stan Evans, Derbyshire, UK

Dentists not giving NHS treatment should be made pay back the cost of their training like university students will be expected to do, we all pay enough taxes.
Dominic Kent, Manchester

I didn't know that you could still get an NHS dentist. I thought they had stopped that service and everyone was now private.
Sarah Miles, Worcestershire

I am a dentist and let me explain why so many dentists have cut their NHS patient lists. It's down to what the government has set as fees for NHS treatments which mean I would be working for £5-10 an hour for many treatments. This is often less than I pay my nursing staff. Yes, I can cut corners and, as one of your contributors says, just do cursory checks etc. But as a professional I am not prepared to treat my patients like this. Get the government to set realistic fees for NHS treatments and the problem will be solved.
Anon, London

Look after your teeth better in the first place, then you won't have to go regularly
Paul Waymont, Colchester, Essex
What about the poor NHS dentist which has to do a check-up for virtually nothing, pay for staffing, materials and surgery overheads etc. You have to be in and out of the chair in less than ten minutes in order for the dentist to make any money from the NHS. I don't blame them going private. Look after your teeth better in the first place, then you won't have to go regularly!!
Paul Waymont, Colchester, Essex

I am very unhappy at some of the comments made in this discussion. None of the people seem to be aware that a general dentist is not actively employed by the NHS, they are contracted and often only paid by the government months after the treatment has been completed. As for the comments made about how dentists are paid to train, people seem to forget that university fees are mostly to be paid back and one cannot live on bursaries alone. Dentists should not be solely blamed for the state of dental care in this country, look to the government and the poor provisioning that is steadily getting worse!
Suzanne Hanson RDN, Plymouth, UK

My NHS dentist retired so I went private. The cost of a crown is in excess of £400 so I have changed to another private practice 40 miles away. The cost for the same treatment there? £150! So it's cheaper to do an 80 mile round trip. The whole "Notional" Health dental service is a joke. When I try to get an NHS surgery the only one is 35 miles away and appointments take up to three months. Something is clearly wrong with the whole system.
Rob, Gloucestershire

A new dental practice opened a year or two ago in west Gloucestershire, advertising NHS places, and nearly a thousand people had applied for a place on the list before it had even opened!
John, Gloucester, UK

Private dentistry is undoubtedly more expensive than NHS dentistry, but the majority of people, who are not exempt from charges, pay for most of the cost of NHS treatment anyway, so perhaps they should spend more time finding a convenient private dentist who does not charge significantly more than the NHS so the incremental cost will not be so significant.
Michael, Kent, UK

I don't mind paying for a dentist or doctor, as long as I'm not also paying tax to cover this. It's a ridiculous system, either charge less tax and no NHS or sort out the state of the NHS.
Anonymous, London, UK

Reduced choice is the price you pay for no direct tax increases
Eddie, Oxford, UK
Here is a great example of market forces in action. A dentist can see half as many patients, but earn several times as much, in private practice compared to the NHS. You can't blame dentists for making the best of their situation. Successive governments have done nothing to stop dentists opting out, because that means they can skimp on NHS funding. So reduced choice is the price you pay for no direct tax increases.
Eddie, Oxford, UK

After leaving the Army last year, I still can't find a dentist to sign on too.
Peter Smith, Newcastle

My recent experience is of the local dentists in my town refusing to treat my 15 year old son as an NHS patient. That is unacceptable.
Mark H, UK

Dentistry is silently being pushed into the private sector by this and previous governments.
Chris M, Tonbridge, England

I think the way patients are being treated is disgusting. How can the government allow a medical service to put money before care? I have found a dentist 15 miles away for my children - we have a pre-registration appointment for August.
M Asghar, Lancashire UK

We were registered with an NHS dentist, who then closed their books. We have tried unsuccessfully fro two years in Brixham, Paignton and Torquay. All full or non-NHS these days.
John Wilkes, Paignton, Devon

Why not get the soft drink and sweet manufacturers to subsidise dental care. Most of the problems stem from children being 'suckered' into consuming vast quantities of their tooth rotting substances.
Simon Mallett, UK, Maidstone

Do NHS dentists still exist?
Paul, Bournemouth , Bournemouth

No hope of ever seeing a dentist in Aberystwyth unless you already have one.
Nick Leney, Aberystwyth

I had a NHS dentist - unfortunately he was like Dr Nick Riviera from the Simpsons, and much as it galls me (and my wallet) I'm going private from now on.
Wendy, UK

The whole private set up is a racket and a con
Stephen, London

I used to have private care through a work insurance scheme. I was not happy with the work so saw a local dentist who turned out to be NHS. 3/4 of the work the private dentist wanted to do on insurance did not need to be done. Funnily enough the work the private dentist wanted to do brought me up to the limit on my insurance. The whole private set up is a racket and a con.
Stephen, London, UK

Every time I see my NHS dentist I have to pay for treatment which is fair but why do politicians keep saying free NHS care? Most people I have known have let their teeth go rotten but as soon as they get on benefits, the first thing they do is get totally free dental care¿ they should also pay a small amount of the costs.
Doug, Liverpool, England

Upon buying a flat in Manchester I decided I'd better see a dentist for the first time in six years. The local health authority sent a comprehensive list and I found a NHS dentist on my first call to register. Are people looking hard enough?
Stephen Lake, Manchester, England

A Labour government should make a clear commitment to sorting this mess out
Mark Errington, Hereford, UK
I am very lucky to have an NHS dentist. Such practices are almost becoming an endangered species. But as age progresses I realise how important dental care is to your well-being. My mother, who is in her eighties, has no access to an NHS dentist and requires regular work as her teeth wear out. It is much harder for her than for me. And it is the postcode lottery that determines what kind of treatment you receive. This is hardly fulfilling the promises of Beveridge and the legacy of post-war Labour reforms. A Labour government should make a clear commitment to sorting this mess out, and most people would not object to a little extra tax if a decent and even-handed system were put back in place.
Mark Errington, Hereford, UK

I have decided to go private as I find it affordable and more reliable than an NHS dentist. When I was with the NHS I hardly ever went for check ups and had never had a hygienists appointment. I now have two of each a year. I believe prevention is better than cure and I would rather not wait until I have a toothache to see a dentist. They are very caring and hi-tech because they are private and the rest of my family are now converts. It cost the price of a couple of bottles of wine a month, I get 15% of treatment and loyalty points! I shall leave the NHS dentist for those who need it.
Sarah, Reading, UK

After experiencing difficulty with our daughter 'accepting' necessary dental work at our usual NHS dental surgery, she was referred to a new local NHS dental access "drop in" centre for further care. Over the many visits to this centre, initially simply to regain her confidence, the treatment has been first class, appointments have been easy to get, and the staff great. The success of all this means that our daughter is much less likely to require hospitalisation and a general anaesthetic to carry out the dental work. Let's have more of these centres around the country.
Andy, UK

I find it shocking that my three year old son has not actually been able to see a dentist
Jennifer Markey, Bolton, Lancashire
I moved to Bolton three years ago with my family and have not been able to find an NHS dentist. I have also been having trouble getting access to private dental treatment as the demand is so high. I find it shocking that my three year old son has not actually been able to see a dentist - all I can do is continue to maintain the high standards of dental care that he undertakes at home.
Jennifer Markey, Bolton, Lancashire

What's an NHS dentist?
Ray, Taunton

If dentists are now charging patients directly, it means that they are no longer funded by the NHS, so why are we still paying the same National Insurance contributions? I want a refund (yeah - right)

As you have to register when you go to University, I was taken off my NHS dentist's list at home. However, I left Oxford over two years ago and have not been able to find someone to register with. I particularly resent this as I am still paying NI contributions despite going over two years without getting anything for it!
Anna Baker, London

I had to wait 3 months to get an appointment. Then the day of my appointment I was told that it had been cancelled and that i would have to wait another 2 months for another appointment.
Peter Maskell, Birmingham

I think it's mad that people will gladly spend hundreds of pounds on DVD players and mobile phones, but when it comes to their health they will queue in their hundreds outside a dentist to save a few quid. People don't seem to value their health - it's madness.
Andrew Thomas, Swansea

Although I am registered with an NHS dentist my appointments are regularly cancelled. When I do get to see the dentist it seems it is just a cursory check. I am in and out in a matter of minutes, whereas years ago I had much more thorough dental checkups.
Susan Naas, Rugby, Warwickshire

As a student I can hardly afford to be spending £29 just to be seen by a dentist and then any treatment on top of that!
Anon, Hampshire, UK
We have a dentist just round from my house. I was registered with this practice since I was at school. Last year they decided to go private and would no longer treat any NHS patients. If you wanted treatment you had to register with them and join the payment scheme. As a student I can hardly afford to be spending £29 just to be seen by a dentist and then any treatment on top of that! Our nearest practice taking on NHS patients is 2 bus rides away. Its ridiculous.
Anon, Hampshire, UK

BBC TV ran two items on its Look North evening news programme. One was the big push for a local performing arts college, encouraging young people to realise their creative flair on the stage, and the other item was the shortage of dentists in the area. And therein lies the answer: youngsters want to train to be Beyonce - nobody wants to do the hard things!
Bob Peters, Leeds, UK

I am surprised this issue isn't in the news more often. It seems that NHS dentists are a rarity in most parts of the country and this has been the case for years. If this was the case with medical GPs it would be headline news every day. I am lucky in that at the moment I can afford to pay for private dental work - most people cannot and more importantly should not have to go private. Why is the government not addressing this fundamental problem?
Mark Baynes, Brighton, UK

I cannot understand why an otherwise intelligent nation would attach so little importance to dental care that I have had to wait since September to get an appointment in April with my dentist. The cost of this poor service far outstrips the cost of providing a proper service.
G A Eloff, Exeter, Devon

I couldn't find a dentist willing to take me on in my area; one said they might take me on in four months time. Finding a doctor wasn't much easier. Of course Labour will tell me that I'm just one of the "unlucky ones" that pays the taxes to support a system that doesn't benefit me! Unlucky, more like foolish...
John McHugh, Bicester

It is absolutely scandalous. In my area there is a five YEAR waiting list for NHS treatment.
Tom Fox, Isle of Skye, Scotland

Surely something should be done to allow people access to NHS treatment
Mary, Bristol
I have lived in Bristol for 7 years, and have never been able to find an NHS dentist to take me on. All lists seem to be full, so I go only when it gets urgent and pay privately, which I cannot really afford. Surely something should be done to allow people access to NHS treatment. After all don't we pay for through the nose already with taxes? If I withheld a proportion of my taxes, I'd be penalised - but the government can get away with not fulfilling its part of the bargain.
Mary, Bristol

My NHS dentist suddenly declared that he was no longer going to have NHS patients on his list. I had to either start paying for my treatment with him, or look for another reliable NHS dentist (an impossible challenge). So I was in a Catch 22 situation and pretty much forced to go private.
Rachel, London

British dentists should be required to spend the majority of their time on NHS patients, just as consultants are. The shortage of NHS dentists is due to greedy dentists (most of who received university training at taxpayers' expense) and lack of proper regulation, and is a disgrace. Another example of Britain as a Third World country !!
James, Taunton, UK

My dentist provided NHS treatment but from this year has decided to opt out and now only provides private treatment much to my disgust.
John, Rotherham, UK

My daughter who lives in Wimbledon cannot get on to a dentist or a doctor's list. In my opinion she shouldn't have to pay her full NI contributions and use the difference to take out private health insurance.
Tony Westgate, Horbury, UK

In case the government hasn't noticed, the state of British teeth is an international joke, as depicted in many TV shows including The Simpsons AKA "The British Book Of Smiles".
Anon, England

Every practice locally is private - this is not what the NHS stands for.
Karen Smith, Sheffield England

For most people the NHS dental service is a thing of the distant past. The last dental bill for my wife's dentures cost me two weeks pension £500. The NHS is a joke.
Bryan Unitt-Jones, Tamworth, Staffs

I've found a really good dentist, in central London. When I asked whether they had space for more NHS patients, they looked at me strangely and said "Of course!" I've never had to wait more than a few days for an appointment, and the staff are kind, helpful and understanding. I guess I'm just lucky!
Alice, London

I was on a monthly plan with a dentist for many years and then transferred to an NHS practice. I have paid as much in NHS charges in the past 12 months as I would have on the previous arrangement and I am not satisfied with the NHS surgery anyway. I am today going back to the old firm to see if they will take me back on a pay-as-you-go basis.
Mrs J.M. Crook, Bridgwater, Somerset

My dentist in Hampshire left the practice (which I'd been with for 25 years) and they couldn't replace her so I had to look elsewhere. I tried to find one to accept me in Oxford, where I now live, but with no luck. After about a year my original dentist practice in Hampshire contacted me and said they had eventually found someone so I could go back there. Although I now have to take a whole afternoon off work and travel 60 miles just for a check up, it is worth it. I'd never been so happy to be invited back for an appointment at the dentist!
Laura, Oxford, UK

I don't mind paying for private treatment but object paying through NI contributions for a service I am unable to access!
Chris Street, Warwick
At Sheffield University all students were enrolled free in the university's private dental and healthcare facilities. As such since leaving in 1995 I've been unable to get back onto the NHS register, despite there being probably thirty practices within 10 miles of my house. I don't mind paying for private treatment but object paying through NI contributions for a service I am unable to access!
Chris Street, Warwick

I have very bad toothache and telephoned my NHS dentist for an appointment. On my way now - you can't get better than that!
Jane, Grays, Essex

I am at university, I am registered at a dentist at home. I had toothache and the nearest dentist I could see was in Leeds. If I need a doctor I can go to any NHS doctor. Why not the same for dentists?
John Duffell, York, UK

Yet again the NHS is a mess. Get rid of the managers and get more medics through university, they are what we really need to be spending the money on. Too few qualify and even fewer continue into the profession. Get organised and cut out the dead wood and hangers on!!
Louise, UK

Retiring after 30 years of excellent dental cover as part of my UK military package I was forced to find a local practitioner. My family now routinely travels 100 miles to a dentist in Witney.
Keith Skinner, Oakham, UK

Dentists have been leaving the NHS for years, presumably because they get a far worse deal than running private services. Perhaps their 'deal' needs to be improved, linked to an obligation to provide services on the NHS. On the other hand, it's a bit irksome having to listen to the dental profession banging on about how we need to care for our teeth, then slamming the door in our face. And when did you last see a poor dentist?
Paul B, Oxford, UK

My dentist has just gone private allegedly to "improve patient service" through taking away NHS bureaucracy. In business if you streamline, your costs go down so why have my dental fees more than doubled? The service is exactly the same.
Darren, Woking, UK

Wasn't this an invention of the Tory government as a way of supposedly giving us more "patient choice"? Is this the same "choice" Mr Letwin proposes for his way of funding/running the NHS?
George, Chelmsford, Essex

It's a disgrace. National Insurance is supposed to cover dental care. Due to successive government inaction people have no choice but to choose between forking out for very expensive private dental care or letting their teeth degenerate to Third World levels of decay. Why this has not made it to the top of the political agenda I do not know (politicians probably get their dentistry free).
Jeff, Cumbria

I'm lucky to have been with the same NHS dentist for the last 15 years. I go regularly every 6 months in order to keep my name on their books!! Its cheaper that way!!
Heather, Taunton, Somerset

Thankfully my teeth are good and I haven't needed any treatment for a few years. However, this means that I'm very unwilling to pay the high, regular payments of private dental schemes required by many dentists who no longer take NHS patients. If I do suddenly get toothache, I'm scuppered because I can't find an NHS dentist to register with, and I can't afford to pay a private dentist every month for treatment I probably won't need. It's a catch-22 situation.
Sarah, York, UK

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