The NHS is attempting to overcome its severe dental crisis by sourcing an increasing number of dentists from overseas, new figures have shown.
One in five NHS dentists received their qualifications abroad, according to the NHS Information Centre, a statistic that demonstrates the severe disquiet among UK dentists regarding the recent government contracts.
As a result of the new contracts, a large number of dentists have moved into private dentistry
, preferring to have the freedom to perform a greater quantity of preventative treatment.
Professor Denise Lievesley, chief executive at the NHS Information Centre, commented that the figures provided a long-term view on the dental workforce and activity under the old NHS dental contract.
"Major changes in the NHS contract came into force from April 1st 2006 and the impact of this on dental provision will be reflected in a report to be published by the Information Centre in October," she revealed.
Although the figures indicate a total of 21,111 dentists – the highest figure for ten years – the British Dental Association said that they fail to "tell the full story, with many patients still struggling to find a dentist".
The association's chief executive, Peter Ward, told the BBC: "We welcome dentists from overseas but this is only a short-term solution to the shortage of dentists caused by poor workforce planning in the past."
Mr Ward added that the impact of the new NHS contract was yet to be seen, "given that one in ten of the new contracts were rejected by dentists and around one in four are in dispute".