A total of 28 million adults in England haven’t seen an NHS dentist over the past two years, new data show.
The latest annual report on NHS dental activity, which runs from 1 April 2021 to 30 June 2022, shows that 16.4 million adults went to the dentist at some point over the last 24 months — equivalent to 36.9 per cent of the adult population.
This is a drop of 1.7 million compared to this time last year, according to the data.
It comes after a BBC survey of nearly 7,000 NHS dental practices in the UK found that 91 per cent are unable to accept new adult patients.
Those who are accepted are facing waits of up to five years to get registered, the research showed.
The latest NHS data also shows that 5.6 million children were seen by an NHS dentist in the 12 months up to 30 June 2022.
Some 24.6 million courses of treatment were delivered over this period — an increase of 120 per cent compared to the previous year.
David Pye, director at independent consultancy Broadstone, said: “Oral health is essential to our overall health and wellbeing so the collapsing number of patients accessing NHS dental services is a ticking time bomb.
“Issues like cavities and gum diseases may seem minor but they cause persistent pain and misery while they can also contribute to far more serious health issues like heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes.”
Last week, Tory leadership hopeful Rishi Sunak pledged to launch a pilot scheme that will allow children under 11 to get dental check-ups at school.
Mr Sunak said: “NHS dentistry is under unprecedented pressure with people unable to get the treatment they need, leaving them in pain or forced to fork out thousands for private care.
“My five point plan will be activated on day one to free up dentistry professionals to do their jobs, encourage NHS trained dentists to stay in the NHS, and focus on prevention as that is always better than the cure.
“As prime minister, I’ll be focused on getting the British people more bang for our buck from our NHS.”
The British Dental Association says 3,000 dentists have moved away from NHS dentistry work entirely since the start of the pandemic.