A BRADFORD dental practice has been given the go-ahead to open for longer amid the worrying impact of the pandemic on dental care.

Earlier this year, it was revealed the city had been hit by a “surge” of people with complex dental needs on top of a “significant” backlog of patients waiting to be seen. 

Dentistry@Bd4, based on Holme Lane, off Tong Street, shone a spotlight on the issues as it made the case to increase its opening hours in a bid to tackle these problems. 

A report to Bradford Council, on behalf of owners Alan and Janet McGlaughlin, said: “Demand for dental appointments has seen a significant increase, partly due to reduced accessibility as multiple dental practices have not survived the economic downturn of the Covid-19 pandemic, therefore meaning the practices are no longer able to provide appointments to formerly registered patients.”

It also detailed longer waits due to a reduced level of appointments to ensure Covid-19 safety; dental issues arising as a result of “poor oral hygiene and uncontrolled diet” during lockdowns, plus a tide of patients who have been unable to be treated due to the pandemic who now require more complex dental work.

The British Dental Association (BDA) said the pandemic has exacerbated longstanding problems in NHS dentistry, with millions of appointments lost due to ongoing infection control measures.

NHS Digital data reveals 97,000 dental treatments were given to NHS patients in Bradford between June 2020 and March this year.

That represents a 76 per cent drop from 407,000 in the same period the previous year.

Among these treatments, 30,900 were delivered to children, down 80 per cent from 152,000 in 2019-20.

Dental practices were told to halt all routine dental care from March 25 until June 8 last year, when they reopened with strict infection control rules due to Covid-19.

These included leaving time after certain procedures and social distancing requirements.
In January, the Government told NHS dentists they should deliver 45 per cent of their pre-pandemic activity, rising to 60% in April.

But the BDA said capacity across dental services remains low, with around half the NHS practices in England not meeting targets.

Shawn Charlwood, chairman of the BDA’s general dental practice committee, said: “Millions are still missing out on dental care, and patients will be paying the price for years to come, adding that the target-based approach is “driving low morale” among staff.

“Dentists in England have had capacity slashed by pandemic restrictions and need help to get patients back through their doors.

“Sadly, while every other UK nation has committed funds, Westminster chose to impose targets that thousands of practices are now struggling to hit.

“But even before Covid there simply wasn’t enough NHS dentistry to go round.”

Across England, there were 23,700 NHS dentists in 2020-21, 951 fewer than the year before – the first drop in four years.

Within the NHS Bradford District and Craven Clinical Commissioning Group, the number of dentists offering NHS treatment dropped by 12, to 283 over the same period.

Sara Hurley, the NHS’s chief dental officer, said urgent care provision had risen to pre-pandemic levels since December.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “The Government continues to support the dental sector and we are working closely with the health service to increase access to NHS dental care as fast as possible.”