The University of Plymouth has welcomed two South West MPs attempting to build a cross-party consensus to tackle the crisis in access to NHS dentistry.
Luke Pollard MP (Labour, Plymouth Sutton and Devonport) and Anthony Mangnall MP (Conservative, Totnes) toured the cutting-edge teaching facilities at the Peninsula Dental School.
They spoke to students hoping to become the next generation of dental practitioners and to the staff training them, many of whom are also working in frontline dental care.
The MPs also heard how the Dental School – and the award-winning Peninsula Dental Social Enterprise – can help to address the current local and national problem.
Since its inception in 2007, student clinics run by the University have provided more than 305,000 dental appointments and over 750,000 treatment items.
Many of those attending the clinics are experiencing homelessness and other forms of social exclusion, and those attending appointments are increasingly resorting to desperate measures.
In a recent letter published in the British Dental Journal, academics from the University said that of the 38 patients attending over a recent two-day period, 13 reported carrying out some form of “self-administered dentistry”.
This represented an increase on the reported 25% of households across the UK who had attempted at least one form of DIY dentistry in late 2020.
“It was a pleasure to welcome Anthony and Luke to the Dental School, and we share their commitment to addressing the dental access crisis. On a regular basis, we are managing patients who have reverted to DIY dentistry prior to coming to us, so urgent action is needed. We discussed the crucial role Dental Schools have in addressing this issue by increasing dental student numbers and utilising Dental Therapists more fully, with central government funding essential to facilitate this.”
“The Peninsula Dental School and Peninsula Dental Social Enterprise have seen over 67,000 patients since it opened in 2007. Many of these are patients who were unable to access dental care anywhere else. The MPs’ visit gave us the opportunity to showcase not only what has been achieved but to gain further support for our campaign to grow the size of the school and our plans for a Centre for Dental Development.”