Effect of crisis in NHS dentistry on dental trainingBMJ 2022; 378 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.o1580 (Published 04 July 2022) Cite this as: BMJ 2022;378:o1580
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A comprehensive investigation by the BBC has revealed that nine out of 10 NHS dental practices are unable to accept new adult patients. In addition, eight in 10 NHS dental practices are not taking on new children for treatment. 
The inaccessibility of NHS dentistry has even driven some patients to pull out their own teeth in desperation, or resort to DIY dentistry.
The pandemic worsened the already exacerbated NHS system after a year’s worth of dentistry was lost. This resulted in an overwhelming backlog of appointments. The backlogs are not just caused by COVID-19, but by systems that are unfit for purpose and funding that has simply not kept pace with demand or rising costs.
Dentists are quitting or radically scaling down their commitment, exhausted and fed up with a system which does not work. Morale has hit rock bottom. No dentist should have to provide NHS care at a loss.
NHS England's recent modest, marginal changes to the discredited NHS contract, go nowhere near addressing the systemic problems the service faces. 
While contract reform is moving forward in Wales, recently announced policies would not address the scale of the crisis. Moving the goalposts on recall intervals will go no way to fighting the tide of the backlog, as the Welsh Government suggests. 
Sustained investment is needed to actually fix this broken system. We need to see ambition and commitment: real reform, backed up by sustainable investment.
We are dealing with a preventable disease, and prevention must be at the heart of any new dental contracts. Urgent change is needed now and only this will help to tip the scales and end the growing oral health inequalities we are seeing across the UK.
We cannot have NHS dentistry without NHS dentists!
1. Green R, Agerholm H, Rogers L. Full extent of NHS dentistry shortage revealed by far-reaching BBC research. 8 August 2022. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-62253893
2. NHS England. Outcome of 2022/23 Dental Contract Negotiations. 19 July 2022. https://www.england.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/B1802_First-stage-...
3. Welsh Government. Move to yearly dental check-ups to improve access to NHS dentistry in Wales. 26 July 2022. https://gov.wales/move-yearly-dental-check-ups-improve-access-nhs-dentis...
Competing interests: No competing interests