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The NHS services the needs of most of the people most of the time with the occasional screw up in the medical section but the NHS screws up continuously in the management department, in the development of hospitals and facilitates and in the manner in which it purchases equipment and products.

Today dental procedures are subsidized within the NHS and are not free like all other medical procedures. The upshot of this is that dental and oral hygiene and maintenance is not as good as it should be. Looking after ones teeth is paramount to maintaining healthy body and life style.

The NHS was launched in 1948 and meant, for the first time-ever, that dental care was free at the point of use, dramatically changing people's access to good oral healthcare, their expectations, and their appreciation of looking after their oral health. 

In 1948 the state of the nation's dental health was in a worse condition than that of occupied Germany: decay, pyorrhoea, and sepsis were rife. More than three quarters of the population over the age of 18 had complete dentures.   

Amongst Dentists at that time there was apprehension that the the new NHS system for dentists would not work and that the funding would not be sustainable. Add to that the growing bureaucracy it was felt that the system had not been well thought out.

Members of the BDA were polarised as to whether it was a practical option to join the NHS or not.   

When the NHS opened for business on 5 July 1948, an estimated 25% of practising dentists had signed up to work in the NHS.

The demand for dental care on the new NHS was overwhelming. Dentists went from seeing around 15 to 20 patients a day to over 100. Patients had to be turned away, and hospitals also experienced a rise in cases. 

The initial hope had been that there would be less emphasis on prosthetics for older people and more conservative treatment for children. However, the demand for dentures was incredible. 

In the first nine months of its existence NHS dentists provided over 33 million artificial teeth, a figure that would rise to 65.5 million for the year 1950-1951.  

Extractions still formed a large part of dentists' work – 4.5 million in the first nine months – but so did fillings – 4.2 million in the same period. 

With the rise in work, dentists' incomes also rose, and the NHS became a more attractive proposition. By November 1948, official figures claimed that 83% of practising dentists had signed up. 

More people were being treated than ever before, which had been a main objective of the new service, but this success came at a huge financial cost. 

Dentists' fears about the sustainability of the service were justified. Within two years of launching the NHS, the government cut the rates of item of service payments three times and did so without consulting dentists. 

By 1951, the NHS was already running out of money. To help alleviate this, charges for dentures, the first charges of any kind for NHS treatment, were introduced causing much debate in government and the public arena and leading to the resignation of Urine Bevan, the Minister who had been crucial to bringing the NHS into existence. 

Other charges for treatment soon followed, and unsurprisingly, demand for services dropped. 

Today patients contribute to their dental treatment as many people simply cannot afford the treatment this does decrease the overall wellbeing of the individual and causes other illnesses that then need to be treated at a later date on the NHS proper.  

Oral health issues like cavities and untreated tooth decay could lead to periodontal disease. A study by the Journal of the American Heart Association found that the inflammation caused by periodontal disease can lead to an increased risk of heart disease.

Misalignment, infection and missing teeth” are some dental problems that affect our ability to chew food, with possible digestive issues down the line.

Gum disease (periodontitis) is associated with an increased risk of developing heart disease. Poor dental health increases the risk of a bacterial infection in the blood stream, which can affect the heart valves. Tooth loss patterns are connected to coronary artery disease.

Bacteria that builds up on teeth make gums prone to infection. The immune system moves in to attack the infection and the gums become inflamed. The result is severe gum disease, known as periodontitis. Inflammation can also cause problems in the rest of the body.

What is needed is a reformed approach to dental treatment funded by the NHS together with more research and better education of the public about oral health care starting especial early in schools.

Money spent early on reduces the incidences of not only oral hygiene problems but other health issues that can lead to prolonged illnesses and expense later on in life.

Robin Jacob
Founder Member