Dental appointments drop in 2020, as Covid-19 lockdowns take their toll
NHS figures show that the number of people accessing NHS dental care has fallen in 2020.
Statistics from NHS Digital suggest that there has been a 4% decrease in the number of patients seeing a dentist in England in the 24-month period leading up to the end of June 2020. Although it is likely that numbers would have been slightly lower in comparison to 2018 if the Covid-19 crisis hadn’t occurred, there is no doubt that lockdowns will have contributed to plunging figures in March, April and May.
When the Covid-19 outbreak struck, dentists were advised to cancel non-essential procedures and at the end of March, clinics closed. Many practices reopened from the 8th June, but appointments were generally only available for emergency cases. The range of services on offer is now steadily increasing, but the majority of practices are not yet able to resume routine services or increase capacity due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Dental experts recommend attending a routine check-up at least once every year, and the British Dental Association has warned that millions of people could miss out on dental care in the coming months. Regular check-ups reduce the risk of tooth decay and gum disease and they also provide opportunities for dentists to screen for symptoms of oral cancer. Oral cancer is a form of cancer, which has become increasingly prevalent in the UK, with the number of cases rising rapidly in the last decade.
Dentists have stressed that urgent care is available, and practices are working to rearrange appointments and complete courses of treatment that were started prior to lockdown. Patients who have concerns about oral cancer symptoms are encouraged to get in touch or contact their GP. Signs include abnormal swelling or lumps, red or white patches in the mouth, unexplained oral pain and slow-healing mouth ulcers or sores.