Covid Scotland: Pandemic saw dental treatments fall by more than 3.5 million

Coronavirus has caused a massive drop in the number of dental treatments carried out last year, with new figures showing these were down by more than 3.5 million on the previous year.

Adults underwent 966,904 separate courses of treatment in 2020-21 – with this down from 4,110,580 the previous year.

And children benefited from 113,386 courses of treatment, compared to 471,290.

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Taken together this means that courses of treatment that were carried out fell from 4,581,870 to 1,080,290 – a drop of 76.4%.

The number of people having dental appointments slumped during the pandemic.

With Public Health Scotland figures also showing fees paid to dental practices for treatments at a record low, the Scottish Government was urged not to end emergency funding for the sector.

Fees paid out amounted to £135.5 million in 2020-21 – with this £163.1 million less than dentists had received the previous year.

It comes after the initial coronavirus lockdown in March 2020 resulted in dental practices being told to suspend all treatments.

Urgent dental centres were then set up in every health board area to provide emergency care for those who needed it – however, these centres only offered a limited number of treatments as part of efforts to minimise the spread of Covid-19.

And while restrictions have been eased since then, David McColl, chair of the British Dental Association’s Scottish dental practice committee said that dentists were dealing with an “unprecedented backlog”.

He added: “This new data underlines the sheer perversity of government plans to pretend Covid is yesterday’s news.

“Withdrawing emergency funding will pull away the life support from hundreds of dedicated NHS practices serving communities across Scotland.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on the provision of dental services.

“We are moving forward rapidly with NHS dental recovery and are supporting the sector to build back to a pre-pandemic level of activity.”

As well as the fees paid in 2020-21, dentists received some financial support from the Scottish Government.

The spokeswoman said: “We have invested over £50 million of additional financial support payments to ensure NHS dentistry is protected from the worst impact of the pandemic.

“We have recently announced a further £7.5 million for dentists to buy new equipment to help them reduce the impact of UK-wide Covid restrictions, on top of the £5 million we have already given them for ventilation improvements.”

She stated: “Our commitment as a Government is for patients to receive NHS care and treatment, and Scottish ministers are determined to ensure that NHS dental services emerge from this pandemic well placed to care for the oral health of the whole population of Scotland.”

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