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CARDIFF, UK: Nearly half of people in Wales did not receive any treatment from NHS dentists over a two-year period, new statistics published by the Welsh government have revealed. Difficulty accessing NHS dental care and perceived high treatment costs have been suggested as reasons for this.
According to the figures, only 55.7 per cent of the population were recorded as having been treated by NHS dentists in the 24 months before 31 March 2012, as reported by the website Walesonline.com.
Between April 2011 and March 2012, 5.1 million dental procedures were carried out. This meant an increase of 1.8 per cent compared with the 2010/2011 period. More than 40 per cent of courses of treatment were for paying adults, with the total patient charge reaching £28.1 million, the website reported.
Meanwhile, the number of dentists who work for the NHS has increased by 0.8 per cent to 1,360. This equates to 4.5 dentists per 10,000 of the population.
Alison Lowe, a Cardiff-based dental hygienist, told Walesonline.com that there were many reasons that people had not received treatment, but she believes that access to NHS dentists played a big part.
“I think access to dental care is still difficult. People still find that they cannot get an NHS dentist and because of the financial climate people are reluctant to pay for work as well,” she said. According to Lowe, generally, fewer people are struggling to find an NHS dentist but cost is still a major issue, as many patients do not feel that they get good value for money.
The Welsh government has already started to address this issue. It recently launched a public consultation to improve oral health and dental services across the country. The proposed National Oral Health Plan for Wales outlines an agenda for improving oral health and reducing oral health inequalities in Wales over the next five years and beyond. The plan “identifies the action required by the Welsh Government, Local Health Boards, the Department of Postgraduate Dental Education and other stake holders to address the challenges we face across three main themes of Oral Health Improvement; Service Development and Delivery; and Quality and Safety”.