Ask the Dentist: The NHS dentist crisis is shameful and emphasises the importance of decay prevention

AN NHS tooth extraction is half the cost of getting a set of gel nails and you can get an NHS silver filling two-thirds cheaper than a blow dry, according to a recent paper by the British Dental Association NI.

The crisis in NHS dentistry has been many years in the making and the public is now bearing the brunt. According to the same paper, “The NHS is losing highly skilled dentists earlier and earlier in their career due to the low wages, high stress, high volume nature of the work created by the contract and level of funding. In a recent BDA NI survey, 92 per cent of associates said they would not recommend a career in dentistry.”

Not being able to access a dentist is hugely challenging for patients, as dental pain, dental aesthetic problems and oral health, on the whole, can have a debilitating physical and emotional impact on daily life.

It also has a knock-on effect on other services like GPs and A&E, who will undoubtedly be seeing more dental patients – shameful.

The NHS crisis has many contributing factors and frankly, due to moving out of NHS dentistry 23 years ago, my direct contact with NHS dentistry is limited so there are more appropriate people to comment on the ins and outs of the situation.

However, until the policymakers come up with a plan, being mindful of any preventative measures that we can take as individuals to avoid dental problems has never been more important.

Most tooth decay is preventable – teeth are designed to last. Every year over 4,000 children with decayed painful teeth attend NI hospitals to have teeth extracted under general anaesthetic.

The creeping permeation of sugar into our diet over the past 50 years has meant that we now view it as normal. As it’s literally everywhere, we have lost a sense of how much is too much.

Think about a supermarket, if you removed all the processed and packaged products containing sugar what would be left – a few rows?

Reducing sugar for you and your family will go a long way to keeping your teeth pain-free and less in need of an urgent dental appointment.