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Thursday, 19 September, 2002, 06:30 GMT 07:30 UK
Damning picture of dentistry in Wales
The procedure could revolutionise dental care
Most people in Wales do not have a dentist and dentists are wasting millions of pounds on giving the wrong services, a report has found.

The Audit Commission publication paints a damning picture of dental care in Wales, where just 45% of adults are registered.

It is critical of regulations paying dentists for each treatment, which leads to too-frequent check-up and other appointments, costing 8m each year.

Dental Facts
UK dentists paid per treatment
Encourages needless visits
8m wasted in Wales on needless treatment
3.5m wasted on cosmetic appointments
55% of adults have no dentist
Dentists' salary called for to solve problem
Wales already has the worst child tooth decay record in the UK. Many people are worried about dental costs.

The report from the commission criticises the "treadmill" system in which the NHS pays UK dentists 1.6bn annually, on a treatment-by-treatment basis - a "perverse incentive" ripe for exploitation.

"Many dentists feel under pressure to work increasingly hard and quickly, possibly compromising quality, in order to keep their businesses afloat," it said.

It means polishing and other cosmetic work, which has little health benefit, accounts for 11% of dentists' time and 3.5m.

That system was developed in the 1940s, when dental health was worse.

The Audit Commission suggests paying dentists proper salaries and ensuring appointments are no more regular than two or three years for adults, instead of six months, would correct the problem.

Care access problem

But the report also warns about access to any dental services at all.

"This pressure on dentists means that some leave the NHS for private practice," the report says.

Valley
Privatisation leaves some areas without dentists
"A small town can be left without NHS dental care if the main practitioner goes private."

And the commission calls for a review of dental charges so that low-income families are not deterred from seeking legitimate treatment.

Audit Commission controller Sir Andrew Foster said: "Since the creation of the NHS, we have seen a great improvement in people's dental health.

"But today's system does not provide the right incentives to ensure that the remaining pockets of poor health are tackled, or to provide equitable access.

"It needs to be changed, to become more flexible, and more focused on the needs of individual people."

The Welsh Assembly's own dental strategy will be published in the coming months.

The British Medical Association watchdog wants the body to put fluoride in water supplies to stop tooth decay.

See also:

07 Aug 02 | Wales
13 Sep 01 | Health
19 Jul 01 | Health
28 Nov 01 | Health
06 Aug 02 | Health
06 Oct 00 | Health
Internet links:


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