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EXPERTS warn of the growing number of ‘dental deserts’ across the country, with more deprived or rural local authority areas having fewer NHS dentists than those in more affluent urban areas.
New analysis from the Local Government Association (LGA), which represents 350 councils in England and Wales, reveals that no local authority area in the country has more than one dentist per 1,000 people providing NHS treatment .
It also reveals that rural and deprived areas are more likely to experience a shortage of NHS dentists than their counterparts.
Cllr David Fothergill, Chairman of the LGA Community Welfare Council, said: “This stark new analysis shows a shortage of affordable dental treatment for communities across the country.
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“In particular, it is concerning that it is rural areas as well as people living with the highest levels of deprivation who are most likely not to benefit from NHS dental care.
“As we continue to feel the effects of the cost of living crisis, a shortage of NHS dentists could risk people choosing to forego routine dental treatment or even resort to DIY dentistry, risking require more expensive emergency dental treatment later.
“The government should reform the contract it has with dental practices and develop a workforce strategy to ensure we can have affordable dental treatment for communities across the country.
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“Councils also need an increase in real terms to their public health grant so that they can provide vital oral health improvement programs to prevent longer term health problems.
The British Dental Association has long warned that the current crisis in NHS dentistry is having a disproportionate impact on high-needs patients, in already underserved communities.
British Dental Association president Eddie Crouch said: “The government needs to be more ambitious in its plans to reform NHS dentistry. To save this service, we need real commitment – fundamental reform and adequate funding.
“A broken contract forces dentists to leave the NHS each day it remains in force. Tinkering at the margins will do nothing to help the patients who need us most. »