The British Dental Association (BDA) has said political indifference is now jeopardising the sustainability of the dental service in England, as they called on all parties to set out their plans on prevention.

Tooth decay is an almost entirely preventable disease, but remains the number one cause of hospital admissions among young children in the UK.

Dentist leaders hit out at mismanagement of NHS dentistry under successive governments, contending that policymakers have made keeping patient numbers down their chief priority. In England’s cost-limited NHS system budget is set aside to treat just over half of the population. Direct funding for dental services has fallen by £170 million since 2010, with budget topped up by charge increases that discourage patients in need of care. 

As part of a 6-point plan the BDA has called on parties to follow the lead of devolved nations and deliver a truly national programme to tackle health inequalities. It has called for expansion of the Soft Drinks Industry Levy, an end to the reliance on patient charges, sweeping reform of health regulation, and replacement of the failed NHS contract system geared around government targets with a model that rewards prevention and improved health outcomes.

With over 20% of activity in dentistry in England delivered by EU and overseas nationals, the BDA has also insisted that future negotiators act to keep the workforce sustainable. 

BDA Chair Mick Armstrong said:

“Political indifference to dentistry will guarantee a preventable disease remains the leading cause of hospital admissions among our children.

“Prevention should be at the heart of any effective healthcare strategy, yet successive governments have left dentists without the plans or priority to deliver on it. As the parties prepare to set out their programmes oral health must not be left out of the picture.

“The chief priority of policymakers has been to keep patient numbers down. We have budgets set to treat just over half the population, cuts in state funding and charge hikes designed to make patients think twice about treatment. The parties really need to think about reaching out to patients, not erecting new barriers to care.

“Every day dentists are confronting deep and persistent health inequalities, unsupported and underfunded and shackled by failed contracts, overregulation and red tape. The next government must confront these challenges or leave the future of the service in doubt.”

About the BDA

The British Dental Association (BDA) is the voice of dentists and dental students in the UK. We bring dentists together, support our members through advice and education, and represent their interests. As a trade union and professional body, we represent all fields of dentistry including general practice, community dental services, the armed forces, hospitals, academia, public health and research. We are owned and run by our members and all our income is reinvested for the benefit of the profession.