Rise in dental deserts leaves millions struggling to get NHS dentist appointment

19 Apr 2023
A dentist at work

Over six in ten local areas in England have seen a rise in the number of people per dentist since 2019, new analysis commissioned by the Liberal Democrats has revealed.

The Commons Library research shows how the rise in “dental deserts” has left people struggling to get an appointment, with some areas now having over 3,000 people for every NHS dentist. 65 of 104 local areas in England have seen the number of people per dentist rise since 2019, the figures show.

It is heartbreaking that people are being left waiting in pain for months or even years for the dental care they need.

Ed Davey

The latest figures show that fewer than one in two (44.8%) children saw an NHS dentist in the last year, while just one third of adults saw an NHS dentist in the last two years.

A poll commissioned by the Liberal Democrats last year revealed a staggering one in five (21%) people who failed to get an NHS dentist appointment in the past year turned to DIY dentistry.

This Conservative government has been asleep at the wheel for years and allowed this dental crisis to get worse and worse. We need to see action now to make sure everyone can see a dentist on the NHS when they need to. 

We need a dental healthcare rescue plan including spending the estimated £400 million of funding for NHS dental services that went unspent this year to boost the number of appointments.

The Liberal Democrats are also calling for reforms to the NHS dental contract, additional resources for mobile dental units to visit schools, community centres and care homes, and the removal of VAT on children’s toothbrushes and toothpaste.




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