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The UK’s leading oral health charity, the Oral Health Foundation, has today demanded the government significantly increase investment in NHS dentistry and are highlighting strong public support for more funding as a sign that things need to change.

The charity feels that although the NHS dental system in the UK continues to perform well and provides a remarkable service, despite being continually underfunded by the government, the time has come for greater support to be given to a continually besieged service.

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The Oral Health Foundation is drawing on new research, undertaken as part of National Smile Month, which reveals strong public support for more NHS dentistry funding; with half (48%) of British adults indicating they would be willing to pay more National Insurance to further improve services1.

With such strong public support, the Oral Health Foundation feels the government must not only pay attention but also make meaningful changes which will improve the system for all. 

Speaking on the subject Dr Nigel Carter, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation, said: “Dentistry currently receives a very tiny amount of the NHS budget but still offers a service of exceptionally high quality.

“The number of NHS dental visits has increased in the last year, which shows the public still have confidence in the service and the fact they are willing to pay more for dentistry through greater tax shows they place a great value on it.

“NHS dental charges for patients have recently increased by 5%, almost twice inflation, which means patients are having to make up the shortfall from government funding. This has to stop, and it is time the government make changes which do not put pressure on patients.

“We now have 61% of adults in England, 60% in Northern Ireland and 69% in both Wales and Scotland attending a NHS dentist regularly, while others choose to use private dentistry services. While this has increased in the last few decades there is still a long way to go, improved funding can help to achieve this.”

Further findings from the research, carried out as part of National Smile Month, the UK’s largest and longest running charity campaign to improve the nation’s oral health, show a strong correlation between household earnings and readiness to pay more tax for greater NHS services. Perhaps unsurprisingly, those with most disposable income are the most willing to consider an NHS dental tax.

Dr Carter added: “Taxes often hit the poorest hardest.

“In reality, we shouldn’t have to pay more taxes, most people pay their fair share, and this is more a case of a better allocation to an underfunded service.

“Poor oral health remains a significant issue in Britain, especially in children, with a quarter of 5-year-olds suffering from tooth decay, every single case of which could have been prevented and that is where significant investment should be made. The Childsmile initiative in Scotland has shown that investment in preventive programmes for children more than pay for themselves in reduced treatment costs even within five years.  It is a scandal that the government refuses to fund such a programme in England.

“One way the government could improve the funding of NHS dental services would be to allocate some of the funds raised from the recently introduced levy on sugar sweetened drinks.”

National Smile Month is being supported by some of the nation’s best-known brands and retailers. Oral-B are platinum sponsors of the campaign, with further support from Wrigley, Philips, Regenerate Enamel Science, POLO® Sugar Free and Curaprox.

The campaign will deliver three key messages for better oral health:

  • Brush your teeth last thing at night and at least one other time during the day, with a fluoride toothpaste.
  • Cut down on how much and how often you have sugary foods and drinks.
  • Visit the dentist regularly – as often as they recommend.

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