NHS Crisis Leads to Rotten Teeth

Britain is facing a dentistry crisis – those who can not afford private dentistry instead face pain and misery, contributing to the rise in rotten teeth, long waiting lists and non-existent help or treatment.

Dental deserts

Whilst every child in the UK is entitled to free NHS treatment, it’s extremely difficult to track an NHS dentist down, as thousands left the NHS years ago, which means you still have your rights, you just won’t be able to exercise them.

Across the UK, there’s a shortage of NHS dentists, but there are particular regions where no dentists accept children or adults as new NHS patients. A BBC survey last year revealed that a tenth of local authority areas do not contain one dental practice willing to accept new patients via the NHS – and the problem isn’t just contained to these areas. 80% of practices in the UK no longer take on new child NHS patients, and 90% refuse to admit new adult patients.

But the Guardian reports that this only captures part of the full extent of the collapse. 

Even if you are on the list, the lists are often so long that it would be more honest of the dental practices to admit that they are no longer offering the service. Revealing that by the time your child can register, they might be too old to qualify for treatment. 

partial denture before and after

The effect on health

Whilst some parents and patients have been forced into going private and can begrudgingly cover the fees, not everyone can do this – even with dental finance being available, which means that people all over the UK are sinking deeper and deeper into decay and rotten teeth on the rise. 

The latest statistics from NHS dentists showed that they performed 9.8 million fillings, fissure sealants and tooth extractions on adults in 2020/21. Procedures which are typically prescribed in situations of tooth decay and rotting teeth. 

For every 1,000 adults in the country, 219 fillings, sealants and extractions are carried out, which really highlights the growing problem of rotten teeth in the UK.


Children are being forced to wait up to 18 months on average for dental procedures under general anaesthetic, which are mainly for tooth extractions, causing children to be in pain for years. Source.

In 2021, 73% of people have one or more missing back teeth, with 7.6% having one or more missing front teeth. Source

53% of the public have not had a routine dental check-up in the last year. Source.

Nearly 70% of respondents have wanted to see a dentist in the last two years, but data shows only 43% of people managed to get an appointment in the two years leading up to April 2021. Source.

Of those who had not seen a dentist in the last year, 28% could not get an appointment, 16% were unable to afford NHS dentistry, and 14% said they were unable to register for a routine check-up with an NHS dentist. Source.

A total of 23,577 dentists performed NHS work in the 2022-23 financial year, down 695 on the previous year. Source.

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