Boston facing a 'dental timebomb' with cost-of-living crisis and NHS dentist shortage being key factors

Boston could be facing a ‘dental timebomb’ with patients delaying check-ups by five years and 40% not going at all, according to a new survey.

Boston is facing a 'dental timebomb' according to a survey by Dental Phobia. Photo for illustration only. (Getty Images)
Boston is facing a 'dental timebomb' according to a survey by Dental Phobia. Photo for illustration only. (Getty Images)

A shortage of NHS dentists across the borough, coupled with the effects of the cost-of-living crisis, is to blame.

A new interactive map shows Lincolnshire has 295 NHS dentists serving a population of 756,920 – which equates to one NHS dentist for every 2,565 residents.

Boston has eight NHS dentists, while Lincoln is best served with 12. Figures for other areas of Lincolnshire include Spalding (four), Louth (four), Skegness (four), Sleaford (three), Market Rasen (one), Grimsby (11), and Grantham (five), according to the NHS dentist finder.

Dentist Rhona Eskander, a world leader in dental care, said: “Boston is facing a dental timebomb if patients don’t get back into the habit of seeking regular check-ups.

“What is most worrying is that the cost-of-living crisis is forcing some parents to cut corners with their children’s teeth.

“Regular dental appointments are easy to put off and lots of people in Lincolnshire got out of the habit of going to the dentist during Covid and have not returned.

Patients end up losing their teeth because small cavities which could be fixed inexpensively when they first develop grow quickly without treatment.

“And more serious conditions such as the early signs of oral cancer - particularly important for patients who smoke and drink regularly - are often first spotted by dentists.

“One of the most common signs of head and neck cancer is an ulcer which develops in the mouth and does not heal within 14 days. Caught early, survival rates are good but they drop rapidly.”

The average gap between children having dental appointments in Lincolnshire has gone over a year for the first time and now stands at 15 months.

Men wait an average of five years between check-ups and 45% don’t go to the dentist at all unless they have a problem.

Women wait an average of three years between check-ups and 35% only go if they have an issue.

The cost-of-living crisis is a key factor in patients putting off going to dentist - and fear of the bill they get at the end is greater than the fear of the needle.

Shortage of NHS dentists is a second factor in patients delaying appointments with people neglecting their teeth because they cannot find cost effective treatment.

The results are from a new survey of 5,000 people by Dental Phobia - which helps the millions in the UK who fear going to the dentist.

Dental Phobia says lots of patients in the county got out of the habit of going to the dentist during the Covid crisis and they have not returned because of fears over the cost.

Two-thirds (67%) say their biggest worry prior to an appointment is the cost. This compares to the 53% of patients who fear going to the dentist largely because of the pain and the needles used for anaesthetics prior to treatment.

Just under half of patients (46%) said a shortage of NHS dentists had put them off seeking treatment because they are worried a private dentist would be too expensive.