Dental charity urges the government to increase funding to tackle backlogs

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A leading dental charity has urged the government to increase funding for dental services to tackle growing backlogs.

The Oral Health Foundation has called for ministers to make more money available, as teams struggle to work through waiting lists. Research conducted by the charity prior to this year’s National Smile Month campaign revealed that over 45% of participants had experienced delays in treatment due to the pandemic. Since March 2020, over 20 million dental appointments have been postponed or cancelled across the UK.

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, chief executive of the Oral Health Foundation, said that urgent funding is required to reduce waiting times and enable more patients to see a dentist imminently. Dr Carter suggested that dentistry had been “severely underfunded for many years” and called on the government to act rapidly to prevent dentistry from falling “behind other crucial health services.”

Regular dental visits play an integral role in promoting good oral health, Dr Carter explained, but they also enable dental professionals to spot early signs of decay, gum disease and oral cancer. There are widespread fears that delays and backlogs will contribute to increased prevalence of dental disease and many cases of mouth cancer being missed at a stage where treatment is much more likely to be successful.

Research shows that 12% of patients have taken advantage of remote and virtual dental services but over 70% of patients would prefer to see a dentist in person.

In addition to urging the government to provide additional funding and support for NHS dental services, Dr Carter also suggested that patients could adopt preventative measures to reduce the risks of dental health problems.

Brushing twice a day for at least 2 minutes, using fluoride toothpaste, avoiding snacking and eating between meals and moderating sugar intake can all help to boost oral health.

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