Accessing NHS dental care in the UK can be a challenge for many people. This has worsened over the last 10 years due to cuts in healthcare and a most definitely since the start of the pandemic and Brexit.
While the NHS offers dental services to all UK residents, there are a number of barriers that can prevent people from getting the care they need.
Here are some of the key problems with accessing NHS dental care in the UK:
1. Lack of availability: One of the biggest issues with accessing NHS dental care in the UK is a lack of availability. According to recent studies, many people struggle to find an NHS dentist in their area. This is especially true in rural areas, where there are fewer dentists available.
You’d think this were a population problem but you would be mistaken. This shortage is due to a shortage of dentists and hygienists in the UK. Brexit has added to this shortage as has underfunding of the sector.
2. Long waiting times: Even if you are able to find an NHS dentist, you may have to wait a long time to get an appointment. Studies have shown that waiting times for NHS dental appointments can be very long, especially for routine check-ups and cleanings.
3. Cost: While NHS dental care is supposed to be free or low-cost, many people still struggle to afford the cost of treatment. This is especially true for people who require multiple treatments or who need more extensive dental work.
It’s wild to me how dentists are not in hospitals or doctors surgeries. Dental care is healthcare and should all come under the same banner. Many treatments are private treatments as well and not accessible to most people, much like private healthcare is not accessible.
Hygienist treatments now cost £69 when 10+ years ago that treatment was done by a dentist when you went for your check up. Hygienists are fabulous, they’re knowledge and expertise is much needed, but they are a private service not open to all but recommended to all. So should come under NHS procedure.
4. Quality of care: Another problem with accessing NHS dental care is that the quality of care can be inconsistent. Some people report receiving excellent care from their NHS dentist, while others have had negative experiences.
5. Lack of information: Finally, many people struggle to access NHS dental care simply because they don’t know where to start. There is a lack of clear information about how to find an NHS dentist, what services are available, and what the cost will be. This can be especially challenging for people who are new to the UK or who have limited English language skills.
Much like quality of care, the information on procedures, pricing, technicalities of check ups – Ie what on earth are they looking for when they look in your mouth and start shouting out the alphabet to their dental assistant – are not easily accessible for many.
I feel like many establishments in the UK that the dental system needs an overhaul. Bring in dentists to doctors surgeries and hospitals. Make them part of our entire health care system. Only then can it be a service for all.