THE news that from November 2022 another local dentist, the Salisbury Villa Dental Surgery in Teignmouth, will not be providing NHS dental services will be met with utter dismay by local people.

Citing recruitment and retention issues, and scarce resources, current Salisbury Villa patients have been asked to sign up to a £18.50 monthly membership plan, or become a pay-as-you-go customer.

Failing that, current patients have been advised to seek an alternative NHS dentist elsewhere, no easy task with 2,000 dentists having left the NHS last year alone, 10% of all dentists in England, and with the number of dentists overall at its lowest in a decade.

Like our GP surgeries and hospitals NHS dentistry is in severe crisis, a crisis that especially affects rural and coastal areas like our own. An estimated 4 million people cannot currently access any NHS dental care.

90% of NHS dental practices across the UK are not currently accepting new adult patients, 80% not accepting children. In the South West it is especially serious with 98% not accepting new adult patients at all. In some parts of the country, such as Somerset, the situation is so bad that they are known as ‘dentistry deserts’.

Even when an NHS dentist is available it can take way too long to be seen – some waiting three years or more. In response, some may choose to go private. Others end up in hospital for emergency dental care.

In fact, emergency teeth extractions are now the most common reason for children to go to hospital with an average of nearly 80 children in England under 11 going to hospital for an extraction each day.

Others are living in intense dental pain or conducting their own DIY tooth repairs. The Tories have promised repeatedly, in 2010, in 2017, and in 2022, that they will reform the dental contract of 2006. However, they have failed to fulfil this promise.

The Tories also only currently provide about a half (£3 billion) of the funding needed for NHS dental care. NHS dental care needs more money, but it also needs many more training places and dentists.

However, the current government have only provided 200 or so new dentists in the past year, but ten times this are needed to replace just those lost last year.

The NHS is dying a very slow death writes one commentator. It is hard to disagree.