More NHS patients treated by dentists

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RISING numbers of people in Yorkshire are seeing a NHS dentist, latest figures have revealed.

The North of England also bucked a trend in other parts of the country which has seen a fall in the proportion of children seeing dentists.

Nearly 30 million adults and children saw a NHS dentist in the two years to June, according to the Health and Social Care Information Centre.

The figure is 1.8m more than the two years to March 2006 when a crisis was gripping the NHS as hundreds of dentists moved into the private sector in a row over their contracts.

Overall 55.9 per cent of people saw a dentist in the two years to June, up slightly from the 55.6 per cent from March 2004-6, but significant variations remain.

In South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw, access to dentists is the highest in the country with 62.9 per cent of adults getting treatment in the two years to June compared to around 56 per cent in the rest of the region.

In the East Riding and outer Bradford, only around 46 per cent of adults saw a NHS dentist over the period. In Bradford city, more than 82 per cent of adults saw a dentist, with another 78.3 per cent accessing care in Hull.

The figures come days after watchdog Healthwatch England issued a warning patients are being given “confusing and inaccurate” information about where they can get dental care on the NHS, with many struggling to know where to turn.

It said that some patients are travelling up to 40 miles to find a place that will provide free care, while others are so discouraged by attempts to find a health service dentist that they end up paying for private treatment.

Overall, access for adults to NHS dentistry has improved most in the North, with 6.9m seen from 2012-14, up 420,000 on the numbers treated from 2004-6. Access is worst in London.

Figures also show there has been an 18 per cent rise in the numbers of dentists working in the NHS since 2006-7.

Barry Cockcroft, chief dental officer for NHS England, said it was committed to improving access to NHS dentistry.

He pointed to “very significant increases” in courses of care, including the provision of fluoride varnish which was given to children in 2.7m treatments in the last two years, making it the most common therapy for youngsters.

He said it showed the message “‘prevention is better than cure’ is getting through”.

“This is very encouraging and means that as a nation our oral health should continue to improve,” he added.

Routine use of fluoride varnish is being recommended as a twice-yearly preventive measure for children. Provision among adults is also rising, with 734,000 treatments from 2012-14, up 16 per cent.