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The crisis in dental care

08 September 2022
Volume 31 · Issue 16

As our NHS came into being in 1948 this meant, for the first time ever, that dental care was free at the point of use. This led to a dramatic change in the way in which people were able to gain access to good oral health care and an understanding of how to look after their teeth. In 1948, there was a school dental service, as well as a special priority service that was set up for expectant and nursing mothers and young children, organised by local authorities. The initiative was such a success and there was such a demand for dentures that a far higher proportion of the allocated budget was spent on this than had been expected (British Dental Association (BDA), 2022).

In 1948 the nation's dental health was in dire straits: decay, pyorrhoea and sepsis were rife. More than three-quarters of the population over the age of 18 years had complete dentures. When the NHS opened for business it was estimated that just over a quarter of practising dentists had signed up to work in the NHS. The requirement for dental care on the new NHS was overwhelming, with dentists seeing around 100 patients a day when the NHS was established. Prior to this, they were seeing 15 to 20 patients per day. In the first 9 months of its existence, NHS dentists provided more than 33 million artificial teeth. This figure rose to 65.5 million for the year 1950-1951. Extractions formed a large part of dentists' work with 4.5 million in the first 9 months, as well as fillings – 4.2 million in the same period (BDA, 2022).

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