The dental service in Wales is near crisis point, and more help must be given to dentists to encourage them to open new practices, say experts.
Incentives need to be given to entice dentists, says the BDA
The British Dental Association (BDA) has warned there is a severe shortage of dentists in Wales - and that the situation will not improve without financial support to persuade new practices to open up.
Despite the long waiting list for NHS dental places in Wales, a series of special road shows is visiting towns this week, with the aim of giving people more information about dental services available.
The road shows are being organised by the Dental Practice Board, the statutory body which administers the General Dental Services of the NHS and is responsible for monitoring the quality of NHS dentistry.
A three-day awareness initiative starting on Tuesday will give advice to people in Newport in south Wales, Llandrindod Wells in mid Wales, and Caernarfon in the north, about the kind of dental skills they can gain access to in their areas.
The extent of the shortage of dentists in some parts of rural Wales became clear in July when 600 people queued to take up the NHS places on offer at a new practice in Carmarthen.
Hundreds more had to be turned away. In the last few weeks, another new dentist opened up in the county, but the location was kept secret for fear of similar scenes.
On Tuesday night, dental experts will be on hand in Newport to give face-to-face advice in the first of the series of road shows.
In August it was revealed that community dental services were struggling because newly-qualified dentists, crippled by debt, were avoiding NHS work.
A British Dental Association (BDA) survey revealed that young dentists were opting for better-paid private work, rather than NHS jobs in clinics, in a bid to make money quickly to pay off their debts.
Speaking to BBC Radio Wales, Stuart Geddes, secretary of the BDA in Wales, said incentives should be given to dentists in key areas where severe shortages were identified.
Over 600 people queued in an attempt to get on a Carmarthen NHS dentist's list
"One thing we have to do is to look at where we really need dentists, and then target those areas, and make them accessible to dentists," said Mr Geddes, who practises in Usk.
"Dentists provide all their own equipment, they pay their own staff, they buy their own premises. They fund the complete set-up.
"Some help with starting up would be very useful."
Asked how he would describe the state of the dental industry in Wales, Mr Geddes said :
"Crisis is almost an appropriate word. It is certainly under stress, and, at the moment, the service is very much over-stretched.
"We find ourselves being criticised because we are not delivering the service to patients that patients want - and, at the end of the day, that's the priority.
"We have got to look at the people in Wales and we have got to make sure they maintain good dental health."
Meanwhile, a Week In Week Out programme for BBC One Wales reveals on Tuesday that the number of GP vacancies in Wales is at an all-time high. There are currently 190 posts which need filling - almost a 10% vacancy rate.
There is more on NHS staff shortages on Week In Week Out on Tuesday - BBC One Wales at 2235 GMT - when the team investigates why Wales needs 6,000 more nurses and 700 more doctors.