Sunday 17 November 2019 / 9:36 AM Jonathan Ashworth

Labour to offer free dental check-ups for all

Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, is announcing plans to provide free NHS dental check-ups for everyone in England.

Scrapping band one dentistry charges will give everyone a free teeth MOT with their dentist, including checks for oral cancers, while also taking pressure off GPs and hospitals.

The measures, which the British Dental Association have estimated will cost £450m per year, are part of Labour’s plans to focus on prevention and provide a truly universal NHS and moving towards providing dental services free at the point of use. Labour’s full pledge on NHS England funding will be laid out in our forthcoming fully-costed manifesto and this funding will come in addition to the £26bn announced by Labour earlier this week.

Charges put people off from going to their dentist, and actively undermines prevention – nearly 1 in 5 patients delay going to the dentist because they can’t afford to see one.

There are many reports of people resorting to so called ‘DIY dentistry’, buying cheap kits off of the internet, including scalers and Temparin Max for makeshift fillings and procedures, often resulting in huge complications.

The current system is also putting pressure on the wider NHS. Around 380,000 patients with toothache are choosing to head to their GPs who cannot provide dental treatment, costing the NHS over £20 million a year. Around 135,000 patients per year are also estimated to attend A&E units with dental problems, at a cost of £18 million.

Today’s measures are also aimed at improving children’s oral health. More than 100 children a day have rotting teeth removed in hospital, when nine in ten cases could have been prevented. Tooth decay remains the leading reason for hospitals admissions among 5 to 9 year olds, and are more than double those for tonsillitis.

Mobile dental clinics, run by charities usually seen operating in developing countries, have set up clinics in towns in England to provide emergency dental care for people who cannot afford treatment.

Dentists are often first health professions to detect signs of oral cancers. Given these cancers currently claim more lives than testicular and cervical cancers combined – and are killing twice as many as those killed in car accidents in England, this policy could play a key role in screening and early detection.

Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the Labour Party, said:

“Over half of adults and 40% of children haven’t been to the dentist in the last year.

“If you don’t go to the dentist for check-ups, you end up storing up problems in the long term. Over 100,000 are admitted to hospital every year because of problems with their teeth.

“This is the first step towards making all dentistry services free of charge – part of our ambition to deliver free dentistry as part of a truly universally free health service.

“Dentists are often the people who detect oral cancers and other serious problems.

“We value all our dentists and dental nurses.”

Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, said:

“It’s shocking that so called ‘DIY Dentistry’ is becoming so common with people resorting to doing their own fillings and seriously risking their teeth deteriorating further.

“With 135,000 patients presenting at A&E with dental problems every year, it’s time we put prevention at the heart of our approach to dental health.

“People should not be risking their teeth because they can’t afford the care. With Labour, dental check-up fees will be scrapped as we help people live healthier lives.”