NHS dentists delivered 23% more courses of treatment year-on-year, according to data from NHS Digital.
The NHS Dental Statistics for England, 2022-23, Annual Report shows 32.5 million courses of treatment were delivered in 2022-23, up from 26.4 million courses of treatment delivered in the same period of the previous year.
The data also shows a 10% increase in the number of adults seen by a NHS dentist, with 18.1 million adults seen in the 24-months up to 30 June 2023, up from 16.4 million adults in the corresponding period to 30 June 2022.
There was a 14% increase in the number of children seen in the 12 months up to 30 June 2023, up to 6.4 million children from 5.6 million in the year to 30 June 2022.
However, the number of dentists taking on NHS work was down by 121, from 24,272 during 2021-22 to a total of 24,151 dentists in 2022-23.
Though the figures remain markedly down on pre pandemic levels – 22 million adults and 7 million children were seen by an NHS dentist in the 24-months up to 30 June 2019, with 39.7 million courses of treatment delivered in 2018-19.
Increasing absenteeism and presenteeism
Dan Crook, protection sales director at Canada Life, said: “With demand for dentistry services vastly outstripping supply, we are now seeing reports of increasing absenteeism and presenteeism as a direct result.
“We therefore need to get creative and find a solution for our employer customers, and that is why we now offer Toothfairy to all of our group protection customers, at no extra cost.
“Since launch in April, we’ve seen huge demand for virtual appointments. The early success of Toothfairy has been incredible; from a standing start, employees have been able to access virtual dentist appointments and receive the help and prescriptions they need quickly and simply.
“To date, 70% of queries have been resolved with the assistance of an in-app dentist.”
Brett Hill, head of health and protection at Broadstone, added the statistics make for “painful” viewing as “significant numbers of adults and children across England go far too long without seeing a dentist”.
“The pandemic obviously caused huge disruption in the system yet we are still seeing huge blockages in the system with adults struggling to access NHS treatment across the nation,” he continued. “Declining numbers of dentists practising NHS activity mean that patients are struggling to get into practises and access subsidised treatment – crucial in a cost of living crisis.
“Dental issues can cause huge physical and mental strain as well as contributing to more serious health issues like cardiovascular disease so strain in the system will further add to the surge in economic inactivity due to chronic health issues and low productivity that the nation is grappling with.
“We are seeing growing demand from employers to provide dental options through the private market to ensure their staff can maintain their oral health. This provides both short term access to dental treatment but also a longer-term investment in the health, wellbeing and productivity of employees.”