How bad is the NHS dentistry crisis in YOUR area?

Is YOUR area a ‘dental desert’? Use our fascinating interactive map to find out as shock data shows up to 13k patients compete for ONE NHS dentist practice in England’s worst-affected areas

  • EXCLUSIVE: Bolsover in Derbyshire has the worst practice to person ratio 
  • Read more: The six wellness trends that could be harming your teeth
  • MailOnline app users can view the interactive map by clicking here 

Some areas of England have only one dental practice offering NHS treatments for every 13,000 people, MailOnline can reveal.

Our fascinating interactive map — created with the most up-to-date statistics — lays bare the growing scourge of ‘dental deserts’ across the country. 

Nationally, there was only one NHS dental practice for every 4,975 people at the start of 2023.

But the figures, by LG inform — a database ran by the Local Government Association (LGA), show massive levels of disparity across the country.

England’s worst-affected borough had around 57 times more people for every dental practices than in the area with best access.

MailOnline app users can view the interactive map by clicking here 

This chart shows the number of dentists who carried out NHS activity each year, the figure dropped sharply during the Covid pandemic but has slightly recovered to just over 24,000 according to the latest data

Antony Watson from Bridlington had to order an at home dental repair kit to fix his broken tooth

Retired roofer, Alex Gray, from Lincolnshire, told BBC News that he had been forced to pull out six of his teeth on his own, after failing to find an NHS dentist

Bolsover in Derbyshire recorded only one practice offering health service-funded dentistry per 13,333 people. 

High rates were also logged in Ashfield in Nottinghamshire (one per 12,658) and in Copeland, Cumbria (one per 11,236).

Read more: Dentist reveals the EIGHT things patients do that leave them horrified – so how many are you guilty of? 

MailOnline heard from two dentists about the things their patients do that leave them horrified, and some will really make your skin crawl

Dental deserts have been blamed for the rise in people forgoing dental treatment altogether, unable to afford the fees private dentists charge. 

This has also led to a rise in ‘DIY dentistry’ which sees Brits use hardware tools, or kits bought online, to carry out dental treatment at home instead. 

Some have even resorted to flying overseas for treatment.  

At the other end of the scale, places like the City of London had one NHS dental practice per 233 people.

It was followed by fellow London boroughs Westminster (one per 751) and Kensington and Chelsea (one per 2,088).

The national crisis NHS dentistry has left millions struggling to get appointments, or even get registered with a dentist, as medics warn that the service is ‘on its last legs’.

Councillor David Fothergill, chairman of the LGA’s community wellbeing board, said: ‘This new LGA analysis continues to show shortages of dental practices, particularly impacting rural and deprived communities.’

The LGA also said that compared to data for January 2022 only one area in the bottom 20 had seen any improvement in NHS dental access.

But in comparison, eight of the top 20 areas had seen their already better access to NHS funded dental services improve even further.  

Mr Fothergill claimed this showed dentists are shunning the areas where their services were in the greatest need, with terrible results for the nation’s oral health.

‘Councils are concerned that new NHS dentists are not going to the areas that need them the most, with many areas with the worst shortages seeing no changes or a fall in the number of practices in their communities over the last year,’ he said.

‘During this present cost of living crisis, a lack of NHS dentists could risk people choosing to forgo routine dental treatments or even resort to DIY dentistry, risking more costly emergency dental treatments being needed further down the line.’

Mr Fothergill added that the Government needed to reform the dental contract and develop a workforce strategy to ensure communities across the country had access to affordable dental treatments. 

He also called on the Government to urgently publish its public health grant for the coming financial year so local governments could perform oral health programmes in the interim.   

British Dental Association (BDA) chair Eddie Crouch said: ‘While millions struggle to access care, the government keeps pretending its “mission accomplished” on NHS dentistry.

‘The Prime Minister claims he’s delivered more dentists, more cash and needed reform. 

‘The facts are this service remains underfunded, overstretched, and is haemorrhaging talent by the day.’

How much does NHS dentistry cost?

There are 3 NHS charge bands:

Band 1: £23.80

Covers an examination, diagnosis and advice. If necessary, it also includes X-rays, a scale and polish, and planning for further treatment.

Band 2: £65.20

Covers all treatment included in Band 1, plus additional treatment, such as fillings, root canal treatment and removing teeth (extractions).

Band 3: £282.80

Covers all treatment included in Bands 1 and 2, plus more complex procedures, such as crowns, dentures and bridges.

For comparison, check-ups can cost between £20 and £120 at private dentists, according to Which?.

Dentures and bridges can also cost up to £2,520, the consumer watchdog says.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said it already working to increase the number of NHS dentists. 

‘Last year, over 24,000 dentists performed NHS activity and the number of dentists practising in the NHS increased by over 500.’

‘The government is investing more than £3billion a year to improve access for all NHS patients, we’ve updated the dental contract to provide more money for practices to take on higher needs patients and dentists are required to make it clear which practices are taking on new patients.’

However, the spokesperson added the Government ‘knew it must do more’ and it was working on improving access to NHS dental care.  

NHS dentistry has been in crisis for many years, with industry leaders saying the sector has been chronically underfunded, making it financially unviable to carry out treatments.

One of the key issues is that under a previous controversial contrat NHS dentists were paid per job, not the amount of work required.

This effectively meant they got the same funding for a patient needing one filling as they would for a patient needing three, despite the latter taking much longer.

This combined with the poorer pay compared to the lucrative private sector, long working hours and the stress of burnout as led them to flee the health service, dental bodies have claimed.

While the dental contract was recently reformed as part of Government efforts to boost access to NHS dentistry, industry bodies say these have failed to go far enough.  

Exacerbating the problem is that, as more dentists leave the NHS, those that remain become swamped by more and more patients, resulting in a domino effect.

Dentists say also said dental nurses being able to earn more working in supermarkets than for NHS treatments is also worsening staffing shortages. 

The situation has become even worse since Britain emerged from the pandemic.

Thousands of NHS dentists quit during Covid and industry polls suggest even more are considering going fully private in the near future.

This has left people with no choice but to pay huge private fees, go without, or do their own dental procedures.

And last year a joint-investigation between the BBC and BDA  found a whopping 90 per cent of NHS dental practices were unable to offer any appointments to new adult patients.

The lack of appointments has also led to warnings that dental problems are being left to become emergencies and diseases like mouth cancer, which can be spotted during routine dental check-ups are being missed. 

According to the latest figures from NHS Digital on NHS dental activity, two-thirds of people in England also haven’t seen a dentist in two years.

Just 16.4million people had a check-up between June 2020 — in the early days of the pandemic — and June 2022, equivalent to 36.9 per cent of the population. 

DIY dentistry also carries the risk of going wrong and creating further problems that other NHS services have to pick up.

Desperate Brits having reported using pliers to pull out blackened teeth or making homemade false teeth with resin and superglue. 

One of those forced to take matters into their own hands was Antony Watson, of Bridlington in Yorkshire.

Mr Watson originally broke his tooth 20 years ago with dentists giving him a crown at the time.

But he damaged it a second time after biting into a cookie and said couldn’t book an NHS appointment for repairs because he isn’t registered with any clinic. 

Mr Watson added that he ‘definitely couldn’t afford’ to pay for private treatment ‘on the spot’, forcing him to look elsewhere for a solution. 

He eventually searched online for home delivery dentistry kits and chose a £3.99 kit.

The kit contained a 20g bag of plastic beads, which are are melted using boiling water then fashioned to fit the shape of the damaged tooth and superglued in place.   

Dentistry experts and charities have warned such devices can be a choking hazard and also create ‘food traps’, leading to more damage in the future.

And Alex Gray, a retired roofer from Lincolnshire, said he had been forced to pull out six of his teeth on his own, after failing to find an NHS dentist.

He said that when a tooth ‘starts to fall out’, he takes painkillers and then ‘waits until it goes numb’, before using pliers to try and extract it. 

Mr Grays said he has been unable to find an NHS dentist after moving to Lincolnshire six years ago. 

England’s top 10 dental deserts  

1 Bolsover: 13,333 

2 Ashfield: 12,658

3 Copeland: 11,236

4 Mid Suffolk: 10,309

5 (JOINT) Barking and Dagenham & North Kesteven: 9,901 

6 (JOINT) Maldon & West Lindsey: 9,524

7 Bassetlaw: 9,091

8 (JOINT) South Derbyshire& South Kesteven: 9,009 

9 (JOINT) Breckland & East Cambridgeshire: 8,850

10 Blaby: 8621


And the top 10 with the most dentists

1 City of London: 233

2 Westminster: 751

3 Kensington and Chelsea: 2,088

4 Camden: 2,123

5 Isles of Scilly: 2,273

6 Hammersmith and Fulham: 2,475

7 Elmbridge: 2,681

8 Richmond upon Thames: 2,710

9 Barnet: 2,899

10 Surrey Heath: 2,924 



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