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Healthy Welsh dental patients may see dentist less often, says NHS

In an effort to free up slots for a backlog of new patients, NHS Wales has announced that healthy adult patients only need to see the dentist once annually. (Image: Shutterstock/ Diana Lange)

CARDIFF, UK: The new plan, announced on the heels of widespread NHS reforms across the UK, has received harsh criticism from the British Dental Association, which claimed the plan seemed “cobbled together on the back of an envelope”, even though the change could potentially allow 112,000 new NHS patients a slot in busy practices.

Prof. Andrew Dickenson, the chief dental officer for Wales, compared dental health in Wales today with the situation across the Welsh population when the NHS was launched seven decades ago. He said: “The high quality of teeth that we’re now starting to see means the patients probably don’t have to be seen as often as they used to. Patients actually can look after themselves and therefore we have to question what they are getting out of every six-month appointment.”

The new plan would only apply to healthy adult patients, and even then, the frequency of return visits should be determined on a case-by-case basis, says the NHS. The UK National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has also recently recommended that low-risk adult patients only need a check-up once every 24 months instead of every six months.

However, without extra funding from the Welsh government to support the new patients for each practice, the British Dental Association in Wales says the plan is poorly considered and implied that it would only push more “demoralised dentists” to abandon the NHS.

The Welsh government wants to recruit more dental professionals by offering students support to find placements with practices in Wales, but concrete plans to develop new working arrangements to attract more dentists have yet to be announced.

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