Dentist access: Lincolnshire MP calls for action as some patients wait years for treatment

Figures from the British Dental Association reveal that less than half of adults in Lincolnshire - 41% - have seen a dentist in the two years to June 2021.

A Lincolnshire MP and frustrated patients are calling for better access to dental services in the county, as some families report being on a waiting list spanning several years for treatment.

It comes as new figures from the British Dental Association reveal that less than half of adults in Lincolnshire - 41% - have seen a dentist in the two years to June 2021, and just 31% of children received care in the same time frame.

George Walker from Grimsby says he has been unable to get registered with a dentist or book an appointment for nearly two years for his wife and three children.

He said: "I am worried - we've called every single practice in our area - for NHS we have been told two years minimum on a waiting list, and that's why we are on the waiting list for private, but we've been on that waiting list for quite a while now too."

Tina Storey from Heckington was on a waiting list for an NHS dentists for more than three years with her children, and during this time they had to travel to seek emergency treatment.

She said: "Once we eventually got taken on locally, all was well until Covid hit and then we weren’t able to see a dentist again, as I wasn’t aware that you have to see a dentist every six months to maintain your registration. We waited just over a year to be registered at an NHS practice, which we've only recently been accepted to."

Dr Caroline Johnson, the Conservative MP for Sleaford and North Hykeham, led a debate in the House of Commons yesterday to raise some of the issues and challenges on behalf of her constituents.

Dr Johnson told the house: "Smiles are very important - when we smile it makes us happier, and it makes those around us happier. But unfortunately at the present time, many of my constituents are struggling to smile because they have problems with their teeth and they just cannot get an NHS dental appointment.

"This leaves some in very significant pain and discomfort, and many constituents have contacted me to share their experiences - experiences of waiting years to access NHS dental care, of children being unable to access orthodontic care, and with the choice of hugely expensive private treatment or doing without.

"Access to specialist treatment is even more limited. Lincolnshire has no specialist dental services in either paediatrics or restorative dentistry, and this means significant travel out of the county for patients who require more specialist help."

Responding to the concerns raised by Dr Johnson, Health Minister Maria Caulfield said: "The steps we have taken over the course of the pandemic have been to ensure the safety of both dental patients and also the staff, but it has led to a reduction in the number of patients that can be seen. We have worked closely with NHS England to consider the level of NHS dentistry that can be safely delivered in an environment of a pandemic, and the thresholds that have been set for dental practices since the start of the year were based on what was achievable while maintaining infection control measures.

"I will look at what more support can be given to dentistry premises in terms of ventilation to help them open up further still, but in light of the reduction in activity, dental surgeries have been asked to deliver as much care as possible now. I am really pleased to see in England urgent care is now back to pre-pandemic levels since December, so I think we have made real progress.

"I am also pleased that we are able to take specific action both nationally and locally to improve recruitment and retention. There will be additional clinical capacity to reduce waiting lists."