Cities hardest-hit by UK dental disaster ranked – as 4 in 10 adults obtained check-ups

New research has revealed the hardest areas in the UK to secure a dentist appointment, as only four in 10 adults saw a dentist from 2022 to 2023.

As waiting lists continue to soar and desperate people turn to ‘DIY dentistry’, health experts at UNTIL have explored NHS data to discover the worst-hit areas amid the cripping health crisis. Following in-depth analysis of the fifty dental practices listed on the NHS website for cities and towns in the UK, Bristol received the lowest rating.

It was revealed that people living in Bristol are least likely to be able to register as a new patient at an NHS dentist, with only 14 percent of practices listed on the NHS ‘find a dentist‘ tool currently taking new registrations – equivalent to just seven practices. Next on the list is Norwich, which has just eight dental practices listed, with Cheltenham following closely behind with nine.

This comes as a YouGov survey reported that more than a third of respondents couldn’t find an NHS dentist in their area, with six percent even attempting DIY dentistry at home. Last year, a man had to pull out five of his own teeth to tackle the ‘excruciating’ pain after not being able to book a dentist appointment within a 25-mile radius of his home city of Wakefield.

The research pointed out that smaller areas are also being affected, as less than 25 percent of practices listed taking on new patients in Swindon, Northampton and Plymouth. Meanwhile, Birmingham ranked the best for residents looking to be accepted into a new dentist, with up to 68 percent availability.

The experts added: “However, with one of the largest populations, only having 34 dental practices currently accepting new NHS problems, could lead to many patients not being seen for treatment.” What’s more, Dudley, Manchester and Bradford prove the most promising for adults looking to register as each city had over 27 dentists readily available with most of these practices also accepting patients under the age of 17.

Dr Adarsh Thanki, dental director at UNTIL, commented on the data: “Long waiting times and rising costs are creating significant barriers for patients seeking dental care but it’s also having a knock-on effect for those dentists currently working in the NHS. Stress and burnout is a huge problem for NHS dentists and is leading many to consider alternative options, such as going private.

“We must address these challenges to ensure accessible and effective dental care for all otherwise patients will not be getting their dental needs met and dentists will continue to buckle under the pressure.” This comes as one in four adults in England were unable to get dental care last year – equivalent to more than 12million people – warns the British Dental Association (BDA).

Here are the hardest-hit cities ranked – with the % of practices accepting new NHS patients -according to UNTIL data:

  1. Bristol – 14%
  2. Norwich – 16%
  3. Cheltenham – 18%
  4. Swindon – 18%
  5. Northampton – 18%
  6. Plymouth – 18%
  7. York – 22%
  8. Reading – 22%
  9. Portsmouth – 22%
  10. Oxford – 24%

Here are the best ranked cities – with the % of practices accepting new NHS patients – according to UNTIL data:

  1. Birmingham – 68%
  2. Bradford – 62%
  3. Dudley – 62%
  4. Newcastle upon Tyne – 60%
  5. Luton – 58%
  6. Coventry – 58%
  7. London – 54%
  8. Manchester – 52%
  9. Wigan – 52%
  10. Walsall – 50%

The latest research has called attention to the critical and growing issue within the UK’s dental industry, particularly in places like Bristol, Norwich, and Cheltenham, where the availability of NHS dental care is alarmingly low. “The data underscores the urgent need for systemic changes to address both patient access and the well-being of dental professionals,” concluded the health experts.

Dentists for All campaign

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Our 3 demands

Everyone should have access to an NHS dentist

More than 12 million people were unable to access NHS dental care last year – more than 1 in 4 adults in England. At the same time 90% of dental practices are no longer accepting new NHS adult patients. Data from the House of Commons Library showed 40% of children didn’t have their recommended annual check-up last year.

Restore funding for dental services and recruit more NHS dentists

The UK spends the smallest proportion of its heath budget on dental care of any European nation. Government spending on dental services in England was cut by a quarter in real terms between 2010 and 2020. The number of NHS dentists is down by more than 500 to 24,151 since the pandemic.

Change the contracts

A Parliamentary report by the Health Select Committee has branded the current NHS dentists’ contracts as “not fit for purpose” and described the state of the service as “unacceptable in the 21st century”. The system effectively sets quotas on the maximum number of NHS patients a dentist can see as it caps the number of procedures they can perform each year. Dentists also get paid the same for delivering three or 20 fillings, often leaving them out of pocket. The system should be changed so it enables dentists to treat on the basis of patient need.

Have you had to resort to drastic measures because you couldn’t access an NHS dentist? Are you a parent struggling to get an appointment for a child? Email [email protected] or call 0800 282591