What The UK’s Shortage Of Dentists Means For Patients

The UK’s dental market has faced many challenges over recent years, including the pandemic, rising costs and increased demand for services.

Within the NHS system, a shortage of available dentists and places for new patients has led to a rise in home treatment methods, which are incredibly dangerous and could cause permanent harm to those who attempt them.

NHS dental spaces are funded partially by the National Health Service, with patients paying a fixed fee for their treatments depending on the band they fall under.

With NHS places falling, many patients are struggling to afford private dental care, which is often significantly more expensive. That’s because there’s no NHS funding available for private dental care, meaning patients have to pay the fees themselves, which can be hundreds of pounds more in many cases.

Many NHS practices no longer accept adult patients, and unlike emergency medical treatment, dental care isn’t a legal right in the UK. As such, patients can be denied access to an NHS practice if the patient roster is full.

The reduction in dentists in both the NHS and private sectors shows how far the industry has come over recent years.

How The Dental Market Has Evolved

The dental market has come a long way since the days of embarrassment and fear. Previously, most patients avoided the dentist from fright and a lack of understanding and only ventured in if they were in pain.

However, the rise of social media and an increased focus on personal grooming has led to many patients focusing on their teeth and becoming more interested in what dental care can do for their appearance and self-esteem.

As a result, many dental practices have started to offer a wide range of treatment options. For example, Covent Garden Dental Spa in Central London offers everything from general checkups to cutting-edge teeth whitening and straightening solutions, so patients can get all the cosmetic and dental hygiene needs met in one place.

The rise of cosmetic dentistry combined with general tooth care and hygiene has led to rising interest in visiting the dentist. However, it has also increased the pressure on dentists and led to fewer available spaces at many practices.

With the increase in dental treatment options has come a rise in lower-quality treatment options flooding the market. These range from at home kits, which aren’t tailored to a patient’s needs and mouth, to international clinics opening up and offering cut-price treatments.

Often these treatments lead to dental issues for patients, with claims of tooth damage and issues that often need further work in the future. Turkey is one country that’s become popular for dental tourism over the past few years, but many individuals who’ve travelled to the country have shared horror stories of poor quality work and damaged teeth.


Looking Ahead: What Can Patients Do?

Overall, the dental issues in the UK have been a long time coming. Issues such as rapid population growth and a decline in dental school graduates taking up foundation posts to enter the industry mean that patients can expect longer waits than usual throughout the years to come.

Some approaches that patients can take to deal with these issues include:

  • Attend regular checkups with your dentist if you have one already
  • Sign up for a new dentist as soon as you move to a new area
  • If you can’t get a place, ask to be put on the waiting list, even if it’s long
  • Consider looking further afield for private places and be prepared to travel to your dentist
  • Take good care of your teeth and practice good oral hygiene to reduce your chances of a dental emergency
  • Avoid home dental treatments such as whitening tools or home braces, as these could cause damage your teeth

While none of these strategies will fully prevent you from needing a dentist or having an emergency, they can help you to deal proactively with the lack of available spaces in many dental practices.

Going forward, the UK government is working to improve access to dental care. Recent reforms are seeking to help NHS dental patients find places and get the best care possible, and in the future, further changes to laws and regulations will doubtless be introduced.

While we’re a long way from being out of the woods, the problem is being approached from various angles. For UK dental patients, it can seem like an impossible challenge to deal with dental pain and being unable to find support, so lawmakers and industry experts are eager to explore new ways to change the market.

About Lisa Baker, Editor, Wellbeing News 4427 Articles
Editor Lisa Baker is passionate about the benefits of a holistic approach to healing. Lisa is a qualified Vibrational Therapist and has qualifications in Auricular Therapy, Massage, Kinesiology, Crystal Healing, Seichem and is a Reiki Master.