Record numbers of dental patients are clogging NHS urgent helpline

Record numbers of dental patients are clogging NHS urgent care helpline by calling 111 for aid as they can’t find a dentist, figures show

  • 85,000 patients call 111 each month with dental issues, 42 per cent up from 2018

Record numbers of patients in pain due to problems with their teeth are flooding the NHS urgent care helpline because they can’t find a dentist, the MoS can reveal.

Every month, 85,000 desperate patients call 111 with dental emergencies, compared with 60,000 in 2018 – a rise of 42 per cent.

NHS 111 staff say they are regularly contacted by patients with tooth pain, meaning that doctors on the helpline take longer to get to patients with life-threatening symptoms such as chest pain.

The number of NHS dentists has plunged to 23,000 – its lowest in a decade. Nine in ten NHS dental practices are not accepting new adult NHS patients, leaving one in five Britons with no dentist.

The British Dental Association said many dentists no longer wanted to do NHS work because they were paid for only a limited number of NHS treatments each year. 

Every month, 85,000 dental patients dial 111, an increase of 42 per cent since 2018 when the figure was 60,000 (file photo)

There’s a possibility that NHS dentists won’t exist by 2030, the Oral Health Foundation has said

The Government wants to train thousands more within ten years, but Dr Nigel Carter, of the Oral Health Foundation, said: ‘There’s a possibility NHS dentists won’t exist by 2030 – the system is so broken.’

Dr Nisa Aslam, a 111 GP, said: ‘We regularly hear from patients with tooth pain so bad they are desperate. These patients are probably in more pain that any patient I talk to because tooth pain is so intense. There’s little I can do – I’m not allowed to offer dental advice.

‘This means 111 doctors spend a substantial time answering calls from patients they cannot treat.’

NHS England did not respond to a request to comment.

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