Fees will see more people pull teeth out - dentist

Dental patient
NHS dental fees are going up in Wales for the first time in four years [PA Media]

More people might pull out their own teeth because they cannot afford a hike in NHS dental fees, a dentists' leader has said.

Welsh general dental practice committee chairman Russell Gidney fears lower-income patients will face "real choices" about whether to get treated.

Checks-ups, fillings and urgent appointments will cost more in Wales from 1 April.

The Welsh government said there were "pressures on our budgets" and it would spend money raised by higher charges on dentistry.

Charges will remain lower in Wales than England, but the British Dental Association (BDA) believes the hike is the biggest in the NHS's 75-year history.

Children get free appointments, and people under 25 or over 60 get free check-ups.

Some adults on low incomes do not have to pay, but the BDA warned about the impact on families with incomes just above the threshold for free care.

Graphic showing costs of dental care
[BBC]

Mr Gidney said: "£30 for a toothache appointment is not insignificant.

“They’re the ones who are going to be having to make real choices if they can afford to access that level of care.

"You see stories of people taking their own teeth out because they can’t access care, and we’ll just see more and more of these stories come through with that rise in fees.”

Mr Gidney, who has a surgery in Chepstow, Monmouthshire, said more practices could hand back NHS contracts.

Dentist Russell Gidney
Dentist Russell Gidney says surgeries might pull out of NHS treatment [Beaufort Park Dental Surgery ]

Sarah Dickinson, 56, from Caernarfon, Gwynedd, said she failed to get on an NHS waiting list after she and her husband moved from Halifax, Yorkshire.

They live on about £800 a month and say going private “really isn’t an option”.

Mrs Dickinson wants to get two broken teeth treated, and has an exposed metal stud in her mouth where a crown fell off.

Sarah Dickinson
Sarah Dickinson said she cannot get on an NHS waiting list [Sarah Dickinson]

“One of my neighbours actually pulls her own teeth out when it gets too bad," she said.

"She’s pulled out three now.

"My husband had an emergency appointment about a year ago because his face was swollen.

"All they do is pull your tooth, they won’t do any other work, and they just said ‘you need to see your dentist more often’.

“I don’t see how the government can put the prices up for NHS when you can never get appointments anyway.”

The Welsh government said it was the first time charges have risen since 2020.

A spokesman added: "Despite pressures on our budgets, we continue to increase funding for dentistry – funding today is £27m higher than it was in 2018-19, including an extra £2m a year since last year for health boards to address local access issues."

Welsh Conservative health spokesman Russell George said: “All standard charges are being increased for dental services by the Labour Welsh government, including for urgent treatment, which will add to cost-of-living pressures.

“While Welsh Conservatives agree that dental services require greater investment after years of Labour underfunding them, ministers should look at cutting vanity projects like their plans to create more politicians before passing on the cost to patients.”