Hundreds wait two years for dental surgery

People in need of dental surgery could be forced to wait for two years for care, according to a group of dental surgeons.

Almost two in five (39%) dental surgeons think the backlog of care caused by the coronavirus pandemic will take at least a year to clear.

And 19% believe it will take more than two years to get through the volume of patients waiting for treatment, according to a poll by the Faculty of Dental Surgeons.

A quarter (25%) of 300 dental surgeons polled said that the majority of people on their waiting list were children.

The FDS, which is part of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said that the latest waiting times data for the NHS in England show that 389 patients were waiting at least two years for oral surgery in June 2021.

There were a total of 227,750 patients on the waiting list for oral surgery at this stage, including 21,461 who had already been waiting more than a year.

Its latest report warns that patients waiting for dental treatment are often in pain, making it difficult to eat and sleep, and delays can lead to a deterioration in their condition and ultimately mean more complex treatment is required.

Dentists and dental surgeons have been forced to stick to strict infection control rules due to Covid-19.

This includes leaving “fallow time” after certain procedures and social distancing requirements.

Matthew Garrett, dean of the Faculty of Dental Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said: “The good news is that, for the most part, dental services are back up and running.

“Eight in ten of our members told us they were back providing routine procedures, and the majority are providing emergency treatment.

“That said, the pandemic created a significant backlog of patients needing treatment, which will not be cleared anytime soon.

“Also worrying is that up to a quarter (25%) of our members have told us most patients on their waiting lists are children.

“Particular efforts must be made to ensure timely access to dental treatment for children and vulnerable adults, including those with special educational needs.

“We are concerned for example about the waiting times these groups of patients face for general anaesthetic procedures.

“More widely, the faculty would like to see governments in all four UK nations address the dentistry backlog as part of the recovery of elective surgery.”

Sara Hurley, chief dental officer for the NHS in England, said: “It’s inevitable that the upheaval caused by Covid has disrupted some people’s care 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.

“The NHS has put to good use additional resources to tackle Covid and recover all services, with NHS dental teams working hard to see patients as quickly and safely as possible and operating back at pre-pandemic levels.”