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Dental deserts force three in 10 Brits to take time off for toothache, survey reveals

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The continuing issues of the lack of availability of NHS dentists could be having a negative effect on your employees health, contributing to a rise in staff absences. Could offering dental insurance to your employees improve overall health and wellbeing and reduce staff absences?

A third of Britons have been forced to take time off work with tooth pain after being unable to see a dentist, a survey suggests.

A poll of more than 5,000 people by health insurance company Simplyhealth found 28 per cent had taken sick leave due to a toothache.

Of these, 7 per cent were in such severe pain they had to take a week off.

If extrapolated to the rest of the population, this is equivalent to the UK losing 23million sick days, according to the company.

Meanwhile, 12 per cent of Britons were struggling in a so-called dental desert, unable to book an appointment with an NHS dentist, the survey revealed.

Britons were also worried about the cost of dental treatment, with one in ten saying they no longer go to a dentist due to being unable to afford treatment.

The survey, conducted between June and July this year, adds further evidence to Britons' dental woes.

A recent Health and Social Care Committee inquiry described the state of the NHS dental service as 'totally unacceptable in the 21st century'.

Last month, official NHS figures showed less than half of adults in England have seen a dentist within the past two years.

It means 3.8million fewer adults had their teeth checked by an NHS dentist compared to pre-Covid levels. Some regions are also being hit harder than others.

Experts have repeatedly warned that the difficulties accessing NHS dentists could see people forgo vital treatment or resort to DIY dentistry — risking more costly care down the line.

There have also been fears of cases of oral cancers, which are often spotted by dentists in the earliest stages during routine check-ups, being missed.

Dentists have reported seeing patients who have struggled to get appointments with the disease, warning 'people are going to die because of this'.

The crisis has also seen Brits resorting to DIY dentistry, flying aboard for treatment, or going without care due to being unable to afford expensive private dental fees.

Those few dentists taking on new NHS patients have been overwhelmed, with some recording 100-strong queues and nearly 30,000 phone calls for just a few dozen places.

The British Dental Association recently warned such scenes could become 'the new normal'.

Last year a joint-investigation between the BBC and British Dental Association found a whopping 90 per cent of NHS dental practices were unable to offer any appointments to new adult patients.

NHS dentistry has been in crisis for many years, with industry leaders claiming the sector has been chronically underfunded making it financially unviable to carry out treatments.

One of the key issues is that under a previous controversial contract NHS dentists were paid per job, rather than for the amount of work required.

This effectively meant they got the same funding for a patient needing one filling as they would for a patient needing three, despite the latter taking much longer.

This combined with the poorer pay compared to the lucrative private sector, long working hours and the stress of burnout as led them to flee the health service, dental bodies have claimed.

While the dental contract was recently reformed as part of Government efforts to boost access to NHS dentistry, industry bodies say these have failed to go far enough.

Exacerbating the problem is that, as more dentists leave the NHS, those that remain become swamped by more and more patients, resulting in a domino effect.

The crisis prompted Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to earlier this year reveal that British dentists could be forced to work for the NHS for years after finishing their studies.

If you would like to find out more about how company dental insurance could help your employees to get the dental care that they need and to reduce staff absences, please contact us today.


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