• Healthwatch England warns dental crisis shows no signs of slowing,with four in fivepeople, 80%, struggling to access timely care during the last lockdown   
  • NHS dental charges causing public concern as 61% say they are expensive 
  • People on low incomes, those living in the North East and people from ethnic minority groups hardest hit by twin crisis of access and affordability  
  • Patients champion calls on NHS England and the Government to speed up reforms of NHS dentistry and radically improve access, reduce cost and avoid harm to people’s health. 


Healthwatch England warns dental care crisis shows no signs of slowing, with four in five people (80%) struggling to access timely care between January and March 2021.    

The patients’ champion says the worrying trend of lack of access to NHS dental care continues as it recorded a 22% rise in calls and complaints about dentistry in the last lockdown. 

A review of 1,375 people’s experiences shared with local Healthwatch found some people were asked to wait up to three years to get an NHS appointment, whilst private appointments were available within a week. 

Whilst some people were charged £400 to get one tooth out, an individual reported being asked to pay over £7,000 for their dentures privately.  

But private treatment is not an option for everyone, with many now struggling to pay even for NHS treatment. A separate poll of 2,019 adults commissioned by Healthwatch England found 61% of respondents felt that NHS dental treatments were expensive. 

The poll, which looked at people’s experiences of NHS dentistry during the pandemic and how it has impacted their future habits, found that over a quarter (27%) of respondents said they either struggle to pay or avoid dental treatments altogether, because they cannot afford the costs.  


National Data

  • About one in three (30%) have reported they felt pressured into paying private fees to get all the dental treatment they needed. And nearly two in five (39%) reported that they have been charged extra for their NHS treatments. 
  • Nearly a quarter (23%) feel they will now visit the dentist only when they need treatment, despite clinical guidelines recommending regular dental check-ups to keep people’s mouths healthy.  
  • Demographic groups who have been affected the most by the lack of NHS dental appointments and NHS dental fees include people on low incomes and those from ethnic minority groups – the same groups who have been worst hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Imelda Redmond CBE, national director of Healthwatch England said: “Limited access to NHS dental care and a spiralling rise of private appointments mean many people are not able to access timely care – and the poorest are hardest hit. Those human stories show that oral health is a social justice and equity issue.  

“Reform of dental contracts needs to be a matter of urgency for this Government. New arrangements should include making access to NHS dental services equal and affordable for everyone, regardless of where people live, their income and ethnicity. Failing to act now will result in long-term harm for thousands of people, putting even greater pressure on the already overstretched healthcare system.”  

© Healthwatch Derbyshire 2022

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