New findings from Simplyhealth's annual dental survey 2011 show that access to NHS dentistry has improved at the expense of quality.
More than half (54%) of the UK population has experienced change in dental services in the past four years, with reduction in quality of treatment and lower levels of NHS cover cited as the main reasons.
The Simplyhealth study of 10,000 UK respondents shows that although fewer people are now struggling to find an NHS dentist, a drop of 10% (from 39% to 29%), 18% say the NHS doesn't cover as much as it used to and 17% feel they don't receive the same level of treatment. In addition 20% say they're not being asked to see their dentist as regularly. Yet the government says it wants to focus on improving quality and achieving good dental health with its new dental contract that's currently being piloted.
This research also shows that although people are finding it easier to find an NHS dentist, which generally remain cheaper than private dentists, cost is still the major factor that's preventing many from attending their appointments.
James Glover from Simplyhealth says: "People are now able to see a dentist more easily, which is great. It is worrying that cost is forcing so many people to delay seeing their dentists, especially as NHS dental charges increased at the beginning of April."
The perceived drop in quality of NHS dentistry has led to more people believing that private dentistry offers a better service, up from 30% to 37%. This is put down to flexibility of appointments, improved treatment, and a belief that private dentists pay more attention to their concerns.
Simplyhealth is currently running a two months free offer to all new customers who purchase a Simply Dental Plan online.