GPs are forced to hold around 600,000 dental consultations a year due to overwhelming NHS charges for dentists.
In May, an analysis from the British Dental Association (BDA) found that GPs are recording 6.06 dental consultations per 1,000 patient-years. This figure represents around 600,000 dental consultations a year, or more than 11,000 per week.
The BDA estimate the added cost of GPs treating dental patients to be around £26.4 million a year.
The BDA’s general dental practice chair, Henrik Overgaard-Nielsen, said: “Ministers insist the NHS will remain free at the point of use, but keep ramping up England’s dental charges. Already these inflated charges are pushing those who can’t pay towards overstretched GPs, who aren’t equipped to treat them. It’s bad for our patients, and it’s bad for the NHS.”
Dental charges in England grew by five per cent this year, and are predicted to rise again by a further five per cent in 2017, despite further cuts to NHS dentistry state funding.
Dr Maureen Baker, Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) chair, said: “GPs are not dentists – and patients who are experiencing pain or discomfort with their teeth and/or gums, should seek an appointment with their local dentist, not their family doctor.”
She adds that there may be a number of reasons why patients make an appointment with their GP and not their dentist, but doing so only “puts their own safety at risk, as they are not accessing the most appropriate care in the first instance.”