Just a third of adults attended dental appointments as the coronavirus pandemic brought disruption to Birmingham, figures suggest.
The figures are proof that NHS dentistry is at the "last chance saloon" and in urgent need of reform, according to the British Dental Association.
In the two years to December 2021, 292,679 adults in Birmingham attended an appointment – the equivalent of 34% of the population.
That is significantly down on the 24 months to December 2019 when 413,114 – 48% – attended.
What restrictions were put on dentists during the pandemic?
Between March and June 2020, dental practices were instructed to close and defer routine, non-urgent dental care to limit the spread of Covid-19.
According to the BDA, more than a year’s worth of dentistry has been lost to the pandemic so far, with the association’s research showing 40 million fewer courses of treatment were delivered between April 2020 and December 2021.
What have dentists said about the missed appointments?
BDA chairman Eddie Crouch said every missed appointment translates to bottled up problems and widening oral health inequality, which could see patients left requiring more extensive and costly interventions.
The association has urged the Government to deliver "meaningful and urgent reform" to the industry, saying underfunding, cuts and failed contracts had also contributed to the problems within the sector.
Mr Crouch said dentists were leaving the NHS and warned recovery from the pandemic would be impossible "if ministers fail to halt the exodus from a demoralised workforce".
He said: "For the sake of our patients real, urgent reform cannot remain stuck on the Government’s ‘too difficult’ list."
A spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Social Care said it had taken "unprecedented action" to support the sector during the pandemic, adding: "Levels of dental treatment are increasing and urgent care is back to pre-pandemic levels thanks to the hard work of staff."
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