The ongoing dispute over NHS dentists' contracts is making it even harder for patients to find a dentist in the UK and many employees are now showing an interest in company dental plans as a result.
Patients have to pay for their dental treatment
, regardless of whether they have an NHS or private dentist
; however, NHS patients are now paying more than ever for treatment.
The new pricing structure means that a basic check-up, diagnosis and polish costs £15.50; fillings, root canals and extractions cost £42.40; and more complex procedures, such as crowns, bridges and dentures
, cost £189.
A staggering number of dentists have now abandoned the NHS and chosen to work for private practices and, with the cost of NHS dental treatment growing for patients, the decision to switch to a private dentist
has never been easier.
For many, the desire to receive dental treatment as part of a flexible benefits package at work is replacing the more traditional demand for extra holidays or life cover.
Raman Sankaran, director of strategic development at cash plan provider HealthSure, told Health Insurance magazine: "When staff are asked which benefits they want, dental is driving further and further up the list.
"As more dentists go private or close their lists to new NHS patients, demand will continue to rise."
Many industry figures believe the situation is unlikely to improve in the near future.
"In 2008, current funding for primary care trusts to support local dental services will run out," said Suzanne Clarkson, head of corporate marketing at HSA.
"At that point, the number of NHS dentists may fall even further, further driving demand."