More than 1 million dentist appointments lost in Northern Ireland since Covid-19 pandemic

More than one million dentist appointments have been lost in Northern Ireland since the Covid-19 pandemic.

As stark new data was released, the British Dental Association (BDA) said dentistry in Northern Ireland was 'stalling' and any further cuts could prove to be 'fatal'.

1.2m fewer people were seen by their dentist, including 400,000 children - something the BDA said stems from an 'unprecedented backlog' and patients presenting with higher levels of need.

464,000 examinations were performed on adults in 2022 and 2023, compared to 883,680 in 2019/20.

Ciara Gallagher, Chair of the British Dental Association’s Northern Ireland Dental Practice Committee said: “NHS dentistry in Northern Ireland has not bounced back. The reality is practices facing down an unprecedented backlog, working to a broken system, without a plan or needed support.

"Adding cuts to the mix could prove fatal for this service. The patients who need us most will be the ones hit the hardest.

The data comes as Grosvenor Dental Care, based on the Grosvenor Road in west Belfast, has advised the Department of Health that it is set to close in October leaving 5000 patients needing to find a new dentist.

People Before Profit MLA for west Belfast, Gerry Carroll said: "When I was on the health committee before Stormont was pulled down, for years there was warnings to the heath minister then that the NHS, dentistry was on it's knees.

"There were presentations on that and myself and other parties were urging for intervention and that fell on deaf ears."

Dr Michael Davidson of Portman Health Care which owns the practice said funding provided was not enough.

He said: ''...despite our continued efforts to overcome the challenges in delivering NHS services for patients, the costs of providing treatments outstrips the payments received from the NHS...

He added: “We fully understand the impact today’s decision has on patients; this decision has not been taken lightly and closure was our last resort."

The BDA's Ciara Gallagher added that the pressures are starting to hit dentists financially.

"Dedicated NHS dentists across Northern Ireland are in an impossible position. No health professional should be expected to cover the costs of care out their own pocket.

"Failure to address the rising costs of NHS dental care has pushed the service to the brink. Without an urgent rescue plan, this won’t be the last practice to head down this road."

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