Increasing numbers of Scots are turning to expensive private dental clinics due to confusion around the current system that has seen people turn up at their local GP practice with toothache.
Doctors and A&E departments are starting to bear the brunt of desperate patients suffering dental problems.
New research has found that the two key reasons for people seeking private dental care are difficulty with securing appointments and confusion about what services the NHS currently offers.
The findings by toothache brand Orajel found patients take advantage of the NHS instead of going private for potentially expensive treatments in order to save themselves a hefty bill.
This has led to 50 per cent of adults in Scotland being forced into private health care or turning to non-dental public health services.
More than a quarter of health care patients 26 per cent are unaware that key NHS services relating to oral hygiene even exist, with 8 per cent of people turning to their GP and 5 per cent turning up at A&E with dental problems.
Dr Roger Henderson, a GP and medical columnist, said: “We often receive patientssuffering from dental problems such as toothache and gum disease because they are not familiar with the UK’s dental system and how they can best access their local dental services.
“As a result they can often ignore dental problems that then worsen over time.
“I strongly advise people to make sure they are on the best and most affordable service for them by speaking with their dentist and finding out the best plan available for them – either privately or on the NHS – and treat any problems locally until they can get an appointment, rather than visiting their GP or A&E.”
Cabinet Secretary for Health Shona Robison was quick to challenge the findings.
She said: “We do not agree with the findings of this survey. In Scotland, there are now over 4.9 million people registered with a NHS dentist, a record high figure.
“We’ve seen an unprecedented increase in the numbers of dentists providing NHS dental services, up 35 per cent under this government. This means more people than ever before are being seen as NHS patients.
“We have also seen substantial improvement in the oral health of children with 75 per cent of children in primary 7 having ‘no obvious decay experience’ in 2015 with the equivalent figure in 2007 at 59 per cent.”