The crisis in NHS dentistry in west Wales looks set to get even worse following the publication of concerning figures this week. 

The British Dental Association warned earlier this week that NHS dentistry in Wales could disappear altogether over the space of months.

The BDA has also warned dentists will leave the profession if the Welsh Labour Government does not improve its plans for the future of NHS dentistry in Wales.

Out of a recent survey of 250 high street dentists in Wales, conducted by the BDA, more than a third said they would reduce their NHS contract this year, while 13% said they would hand back their contract entirely by March 2023.

Announced in July 2022, Wales' Chief Dental Officer Andrew Dickenson said the changes to check-ups from six months to 12 months would allow practices to take on up to 112,000 new NHS patients a year.

But the BDA said the system had left dentists fearing for the survival of NHS practices, with many dentists considering quitting their contracts due to threats of fines.

Russell Gidney, chairman of the BDA's Welsh General Committee, said the targets were impossible to hit when new patients could take far longer to treat than existing patients who mostly needed check-ups, and that many patients were already only seen once a year.

Combined with a backlog of patients due to Covid, he said the breaking point for the service was "about six weeks ago" and warned it was "going to disappear".

"We've a very real possibility that NHS dentistry as we know it will not in exist in a year or two's time," he said.

Mr Gidney anticipated many practices quitting the NHS when the new financial year begins, and accused the Welsh government of refusing to engage.

"We're really expecting to see a snowball effect of practices [quitting] as they deal with the repercussions of this year in six weeks' time.

"If you're trying to make that input and make that change and just not getting listened to, soul-sucking is probably the word I would use," he added.

Meanwhile a poll commissioned by the Welsh Liberal Democrats has previously shown that 1 in 5 people who had been unable to get an NHS dentist appointment had resorted to ‘DIY dentistry’.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats are calling on Labour to raise the spend on NHS dentistry per head to similar levels to Scotland and Northern Ireland.


Welsh Liberal Democrat Senedd Member for Mid & West Wales Jane Dodds said: “NHS dentistry in west Wales is on life support and if we aren’t careful we will see it disappear within our lifetimes.

“Labour have allowed a two-tier system to develop where those with the money to do so can go private and everyone else is left languishing on a waiting list, often in pain and for months on end.

“We must see dentistry spend rise in Wales to similar levels of that in Northern Ireland and Scotland. We also need to see more dental therapists and nurses trained and to widen the type of work they are allowed to do to help ease pressure on dental practices and clear waiting lists.

“We cannot continue in this direction of travel and Welsh Labour cannot continue to be asleep at the wheel. They must engage constructively with the concerns of dentists over contract reform.”

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “We’ve increased funding for dentistry by more than £27m compared to 2018-19. This includes £2m specifically added in 2022-23 for health boards to address local access issues.

"We continue to work with the sector to explore how the reform of the national dental contract can encourage dental practices to collaborate and best respond to the needs of their communities.

"This has enabled 140,000 patients who have historically not been able to get a dental appointment to receive care this year.

“All Health Boards have arrangements in place to provide emergency dental treatment, advice and support.

"People seeking treatment should contact the dental helpline or NHS 111 and they will be able to assess whether urgent treatment is needed or whether the patient can be seen at the next earliest opportunity during normal hours.”