A “long-term” fall in participation rates among Scots getting regular check-ups at the dentist has prompted calls for government action to tackle the decline.
It comes despite a record number of Scots being registered with a dentist and has prompted fresh concerns about mouth cancer being diagnosed.
Only 72 per cent of the record 4.9 million Scots registered with a dentist have been for a check-up in the past two years, official health service figures this week revealed. This has been falling since a change to the rules in 2007 which meant that people remained registered even if they didn’t turn up on a regular basis for check-ups.
But ministers insist the actual number of people visiting their dentist has risen by a million over the past decade.
Robert Donald, Chair of the British Dental Association’s Scottish Dental Practice Committee said: “These record-breaking registration rates mask a long-term decline in participation among patients. The reality is while many people in deprived communities are getting on the books, they are not making it to the dentist’s chair.
“We need real effort from government to ensure adults are seeking the regular care they need.
“Lifetime registration is good for generating positive statistics, but that means very little if the patients in most need are not seeking treatment. Boosting attendance among adults would do wonders for Scotland’s oral health, particularly on oral cancer where early detection is key.”
The participation rate of Scots regsitered with a dentist fell from 98.6 per cent to 69 per cent among adults, and from 99.9 per cent to 89 per cent among children.
But the number of Scots registered with a dentist has almost doubled over the past decade to 4.9 million meaning there are still more people taking regular visits.
Health Secretary Shona Robison said: “Under this government the number of people visiting dentists has risen significantly from 2.5 million in March 2007 to 3.5 million in March 2016. In the most deprived classification we have seen an increase of 43 per cent in children, and 54 per cent in adults attending their dentist over the same period.
“All adults receive free NHS dental check-ups, and certain groups of people on benefits receive their dental care free.”