Pandemic bites as three in five Salopians don't visit dentist

Dentists are gritting their teeth to deal with the pandemic's impact on oral health "for years to come" - after it was revealed three in five people in Shropshire haven't had a check up in the last two years.

Sugar-rich lockdown diets, poor access to care and the suspension of public health programmes – many of which are school-run – have been blamed by the British Dental Association, who say it will come at a "terrible cost" to the most deprived communities.

NHS figures show just 42 per cent of adults in Shropshire were seen by a dentist in the last two years up to last December. A slightly higher proportion of adults in Telford & Wrekin saw a dentist in the same time period - 54 per cent.

Dr Karun Khanna from Church Stretton Dental and Implant Care said he was shocked that the numbers were so high, and told of the effect it is having on practices - with staff working longer hours but getting through far less appointments to to Covid safety measures that must be adhered to.

"I'm surprised to hear it's that high," he said. "The coronavirus pandemic has had a big impact. We can't see as many patients so we've had to prioritise those who need check ups every three months and young children.

"A lot of things have had to change. We used to have 15 people in the waiting room at the same time, but now we can only have a couple, and ask everyone else to wait in their cars to be called. We're here working longer hours. Talking to friends and colleagues, most are in the same boat.

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"We usually send reminders out for appointments when people are due to come back, but we have been sending far less out because we haven't got as many appointments available.

"We are still doing emergency appointments and we are able to book people in when they need to be seen. We're not turning people away if people are calling for a routine appointment."

The figures show that in Shropshire, 110,286 people were seen by a dentist in the two years to the end of December 2020. This means 58 per cent had not been seen by a dentist within the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence's recommended longest interval between check-ups - up from 53 per cent compared to the end of 2019.

In Telford & Wrekin, 75,408 were not seen to the end of last December, meaning 46 per cent had not been seen by a dentist in the recommended time - up from 41 per cent the previous year.

The statistics also show that only 32 per cent of children in Shropshire and 36 per cent of youngsters in Telford & Wrekin were seen.

In terms of treatments, 83 per cent less were carried out in Shropshire last year compared to the year before, and 82 per cent less in Telford and Wrekin.

Eddie Crouch, chairman of the British Dental Association, said: "Access has collapsed, public health programmes suspended, and many practices have been pushed to the brink.

"Serious investment in prevention is needed now, alongside real support for the services millions depend on."

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