Figures reveal pandemic's huge impact on dental care in Derbyshire
The British Dental Association said the pandemic has exacerbated longstanding problems in NHS dentistry, with millions of appointments lost due to ongoing infection control measures.
NHS Digital data reveals 168,000 dental treatments were given to NHS patients in Derbyshire between June 2020 and March this year – a 72% drop from 601,000 in the same period the previous year.
Among these treatments, 40,300 were delivered to children, down 75% from 159,000 in 2019-20.
Dental practices were told to halt all routine dental care from March 25 until June 8 last year, when they reopened with strict infection control rules due to Covid-19.
These included leaving time after certain procedures and social distancing requirements.
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In January, the Government told NHS dentists they should deliver 45% of their pre-pandemic activity, rising to 60% in April.
But the BDA said capacity across dental services remains low, with around half the NHS practices in England not meeting targets.
Shawn Charlwood, chairman of the BDA's general dental practice committee, said: "Millions are still missing out on dental care, and patients will be paying the price for years to come, adding that the target-based approach is "driving low morale" among staff.
"Dentists in England have had capacity slashed by pandemic restrictions and need help to get patients back through their doors.
"Sadly, while every other UK nation has committed funds, Westminster chose to impose targets that thousands of practices are now struggling to hit.
"But even before Covid there simply wasn't enough NHS dentistry to go round."
Across England, there were 23,700 NHS dentists in 2020-21, 951 fewer than the year before – the first drop in four years.
Sara Hurley, the NHS's chief dental officer, said urgent care provision had risen to pre-pandemic levels since December.
She added: “It’s inevitable that the upheaval caused by Covid has disrupted some people’s dental care, but dentists have been prioritising treatment for patients in urgent need, in part through the rapid establishment of 600 urgent dental centres – with millions still getting care through the pandemic."