40 million dental appointments lost during the pandemic, new figures suggest

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Wednesday 16th February 2022

New figures suggest that around 40 million dental appointments have been lost due to the pandemic. 

Research conducted by the British Dental Association (BDA) shows that dentists have carried out approximately 40 million fewer courses of dental treatment since the start of the Covid-19 crisis. 

In the five years leading up to March 2020, the average number of courses of dental treatment stood at 39.4 million per year. Since the start of the pandemic, a year’s worth of dentistry has been lost.

Backlogs started to amass when practices across the UK closed at the start of the first lockdown in March 2020. Even when clinics reopened in June 2020, there were stringent restrictions in place, which reduced capacity dramatically. Practices were forced to prioritise urgent cases for several months and many are still not offering routine services. Closures and prolonged periods of restrictions and limits on patient numbers have contributed to treatment delays and cancellations all over the country. 

Studies suggest that backlogs have caused waiting times for treatment to increase, and in some areas, the situation has been exacerbated by dental practices closing or going private. Health watchdogs have reported a rise in complaints and a surge in calls from patients who cannot find a dentist and have resorted to undertaking DIY dental care. 

The government has committed extra funding worth £50 million to provide an additional 350,000 dental appointments outside of normal practice hours, with dentists earning more to run services during evenings and weekends. There has been criticism that the response was too late and calls for more funding to improve recruitment and training and increase capacity further. 

Patients who require urgent dental treatment are advised to contact their regular dentist or call 111 if they don’t have a dentist or they need help outside of practice hours.