Plymouth dentists pulling twice as many teeth

Monday, March 23, 2009, 08:24

DENTISTS in Plymouth are pulling out more than twice the number of teeth sparking renewed concerns over problems accessing NHS treatment.

Tooth extractions among adults in the city have rocketed by a startling 114 per cent in recent years official figures reveal.

Health chiefs say the massive rise is down to many more people now receiving regular check-ups, who may not have been to a dentist for sometime, and so raising the likelihood of needing treatment including extractions.

But government critics blame the significant hike on the "fundamentally flawed new dental contract", claiming it does not provide for adequate preventative care.

An independent inquiry, ordered by ministers, is currently being held into NHS dentistry after fierce criticism of the deal.

The contract was introduced back in 2006 in a bid to improve access, but it then emerged significantly fewer patients across the country were actually using NHS services, compared with when the arrangement started.

It has proved unpopular with the profession, and there has also been criticism that because dentists now receive a flat salary, they no longer have any financial incentive to carry out difficult work such as crowns and bridges.

A think-tank now argues dentists should have a limit on the amount of private work they can do.

The New Local Government Network, which specialises in public service reform, said imposing a quota would help improve access to NHS dentistry. It said such a move was justified as it cost £175,000 to train a dentist.

But dental leaders said they were against the idea of quotas, pointing out that there were dentists who wanted to do more NHS work but could not.

Department of Health figures broken down by Primary Care Trust show that the number of extractions of teeth by dentists in Plymouth leapt from 277 in 2003/04 to 593 in 2007/08. In one year alone the number of extractions carried out leapt by nearly 200 from 409 in 2006/07.

In the neighbouring Devon PCT area, the tooth extraction count soared by a third from 1,475 in 2006/07 to 1,966 last year.

Shadow Health Minister Mike Penning said: "The number of extractions is rising, and concerns will quite rightly be raised about the types of treatment people are receiving.

"Patients deserve more than complacency from the Government, and it is time Ministers admitted their contract has been a failure."

Emily Street, dental lead for NHS Plymouth said "Over the last few years we have been able to place many more people with NHS Dentists in Plymouth.

"In fact since 2006 we have placed more than 28,000 people with a regular dentist. Consequently more people are now receiving regular treatment, some of whom probably have not seen a dentist for sometime meaning they are more likely to need treatment including extractions.

"In Plymouth, anyone who is requiring an NHS dentist can add their name to the NHS Plymouth database which is a list of names of those who wish to access a regular dentistry. Patients should write stating name, address, telephone number and date of birth to: NHS Plymouth, FREEPOST, NAT 22278, Plymouth, PL6 5QZ."

Luke Woolley, primary care manager for Devon PCT, said since the introduction of the new contract NHS dental services had been expanded in the county, leading to a significant increase in the numbers of new patients being seen.

He added: "Some of these patients may not have seen a dentist for sometime and therefore they may be more likely to need treatment which could include an extraction.

"Anyone requiring an NHS dentist should telephone the PCT dental service on 0845 002 0034. Alternatively they can leave their details by e-mail:".


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