Concern over low number of dental visits in Enfield

Just 35.9% of adults in Enfield have seen a dentist during the recommended two years, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

credit Caroline lm Jibssi via Unsplash

Only around one-in-three adults in Enfield saw an NHS dentist within the recommended two years, according to new data.

Figures from NHS Digital reveal just 35.9% of adults in the borough saw a dentist during the 24 months to June this year – a drop of almost ten percentage points since 2018/19, when the figure was 45.6%.

Fewer than half of children in Enfield (43%) saw an NHS dentist in the recommended two-year period. This still marks an improvement on the previous year, when the figure was 32.1%.

In March 2020, dentists were told to close for routine care and provide only urgent treatment because to the Covid-19 lockdown. The number of patients seeing NHS dentists is now increasing but has not returned to pre-pandemic levels. Across England, the number of adults seeing an NHS dentist within the recommended two-year timeframe dropped by 9.5% compared with the previous year.

Reacting to the figures, the British Dental Association (BDA) urged ministers “to step up and deliver much-needed reform and fair funding for NHS dentistry”. BDA chair Eddie Crouch said: “What we’re seeing isn’t a recovery, but a service on its last legs. The government will be fooling itself and millions of patients if it attempts to put a gloss on these figures.”

After what it called a “decade of savage” cuts, the BDA estimates it would take an extra £880million a year to restore resources to 2010 levels.

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Recent research by the BBC revealed nine in ten dental practices said they were unable to take on new adult patients on the NHS. According to the report, published in August, some people are pulling out their own teeth and resorting to other do-it-yourself treatments as they are unable to find affordable care.

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In NHS North Central London, which covers five boroughs including Enfield, there were 58 dentists per 100,000 people in 2021/22, which is higher than the England average of 43.

The NHS report covers “high-street dentists” and work undertaken by dentists under vocational training. It does not cover dental services provided privately or work undertaken in hospitals.

A spokesperson for Healthwatch Enfield, an independent body set up to represent patients and drive improvements in care, said: “Access to primary care services is an ongoing concern for local people in Enfield.

“A recent Healthwatch England report highlighted the connection between NHS dental charges and widening health inequalities, which is a particular concern for people on low incomes. In addition, the number of NHS dentists is continuing to reduce, making access harder for local residents.

“We support Healthwatch England’s recent call for greater ambition and urgency from the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England to create a fairer and more inclusive system.”

A spokesperson for the NHS in London said: “Access to dental services has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and a plan to restore services to full capacity is in place.

“Most dental practices are now fully open and able to safely provide a full range of treatments, however many still have to prioritise patients who are in pain or require urgent treatment.”

The Department of Health and Social Care was approached for comment.

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