As it becomes increasingly difficult to access dentistry treatment across the UK, Kingsbridge residents have been struggling to get the care they need on the NHS. 

After an investigation conducted by The Gazette in July found that no dental practices in Kingsbridge or Salcombe were accepting new NHS patients, patients are now being forced to pay for private dental treatment in Kingsbridge despite being registered with the sole practice that provides treatment on the NHS, Mydentist. 

This is due to more dentists moving towards providing private healthcare, and only two of the practices’ dentists seeing NHS patients. 

Neil Taylor, a patient experiencing a painful gum infection, was told he had to re-register with a private dentist as the NHS dentist he was previously registered with was no longer providing NHS treatment. 

He said: “I tried to book for a week but told there was no one in... when I got through they said you have to go private and pay a £49 joining fee as well as paying for treatment on top.”

A spokesperson for Mydentist said: “There is an acute shortage of NHS dentists across the UK and, in common with many practices, this is having a significant impact at our practice in Kingsbridge. While we continue to actively recruit new clinicians to join our team, the practice is operating with a reduced number of NHS dentists. 

“Despite these challenging circumstances, we would like to reassure the community that our practice team is working hard to treat as many patients as possible and we remain committed to providing NHS care.”

This comes after data obtained from the House of Commons Library conveyed that 4.4m children in England were not seen by an NHS dentist in June 2023, which equates to 39 per cent of all children. 

Reports have also shown that the waiting list for NHS dental care in Plymouth has more than doubled in the last four years, and in Mid-Devon figures show that 29,520 adults were seen by an NHS dentist in the two years, which is only 46% of the area’s adult population and below pre-pandemic levels.

Kingsbridge residents have expressed their frustration at the lack of NHS care, and it poses the question of whether there will be a serious decline in dental hygiene if patients continue to miss out on access to free dental healthcare.

Anthony Mangnall, Totnes MP, said: “Improving access to dental care in South Devon is one of my key priorities, and to that end I have spoken directly with dentists in the area to allow me to fully understand the issues. 

“I have also been working closely with the Peninsula Dental School and have passed their recommendations onto the Secretary of State.

“The problem is multi-faceted as money allocated to dentistry needs to be unlocked and allocated across Devon to clear the backlog. We need to look at the structures within the dental profession, and to encourage recent graduates from Peninsula Dental School to stay and work in the area.”

"I will continue to speak up in Westminster about this issue. I hope that we will see a good, NHS provision back in the South Hams very soon.”