The British Dental Association said the pandemic has exacerbated long-standing problems in NHS dentistry, with millions of appointments lost due to ongoing infection control measures.
NHS Digital data shows 71,000 dental treatments were given to NHS patients in Wigan – a region with more than its share of dental hygiene problems – between June 2020 and March this year: a 74% drop from compared to 271,000 for the same period the previous year.
Of these treatments, 18,200 were delivered to children, down 76% from 77,100 in 2019-2020.
Dental offices were ordered to stop all routine dental care from March 25 to June 8 of last year, when they reopened with strict infection control rules due to Covid-19.
This included allowing time after certain procedures and social distancing requirements.
In January, the government told NHS dentists they would have to provide 45% of their pre-pandemic activity, rising to 60% in April.
But the BDA said the capacity of dental services remains low, with around half of NHS practices in England falling short of targets.
Shawn Charlwood, Chairman of the BDA General Dental Practice Committee, said: “Millions of people still lack dental care, and patients will pay the price for years to come, adding that the goal-based approach “Lowers morale” among Staff. Dentists in England have seen their capacity reduced due to pandemic restrictions and need help getting patients back home.
“Sadly, while every other country in the UK has committed funds, Westminster has chosen to impose targets that thousands of practices are now struggling to achieve.
“But even before Covid, there just wasn’t enough NHS dentistry for everyone.”
Across England there were 23,700 NHS dentists in 2020-21, 951 fewer than the year before – the first drop in four years.
Within the NHS Wigan CCG, the health body covering Wigan, the number of dentists offering NHS treatment has fallen from 15, to 197 in the same period.
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