My NHS dentist merry-go-round

I AM very disturbed by the situation regarding NHS dentistry. As far as I am concerned, dental health is an integral part of an individual s health and not merely a cosmetic addition. My own history may be illustrative. My father, born in 1897, had all h

I AM very disturbed by the situation regarding NHS dentistry.

As far as I am concerned, dental health is an integral part of an individual's health and not merely a cosmetic addition. My own history may be illustrative.

My father, born in 1897, had all his teeth removed in his 40s - something that would, I hope, be unacceptable now. I had poor health as a child resulting in considerable tooth decay. Good treatment saved them, and then the NHS enabled me to avoid dentures and retain most of my teeth.

In recent years things have changed so that many people who happily use the NHS for most health matters have resorted to private dentistry.

Having seen the establishment of the NHS and being a strong supporter, I cannot bring myself to "go private".

I moved to Huntingdonshire in 1976 and then had the same dentist, at the Wensleydale Surgery in Huntingdon, for about 25 years.

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My dentist took semi-retirement and kept only his private patients and I was transferred to other dentists in the practice. In September 2004, I received a letter saying that my dentist was giving up NHS treatment and I would need to become a private patient if I wished to continue.

To add insult to injury I was sent advertising material for private insurance. I was not informed that several dentists at the surgery were remaining in the NHS.

Fortunately, I managed to find an excellent dentist in St Ives, nearer where I live which was convenient as I am now in my 70s.

However, this month I received a letter from the Old Grammar School Dental Surgery in St Ives telling me that the practice was going private. Again, insurance details were enclosed, though this time covering only emergencies and regular checks.

The implication was that proper dental care could be provided only through private treatment. If this is true, we have reached a sorry state and I do not know where to direct my anger and sadness. I do not know what my dentist earns, probably many times my income though my taxes helped pay for his training.

Or is it Government at fault for treating dentistry as an optional extra (except for emergency treatment) compared with other health matters?

On phoning round (and the letter from my dentist did not even tell me how to find a new dentist) I was told that the Wensleydale Surgery in Huntingdon had vacancies for NHS patients, so I am back where I started 31 years ago.

BRIDGET SMITH

Hemingford Road

St Ives

THE reason dentists want to treat exempt patients (children, pregnant females, nursing mothers and benefit recipients) under the NHS is not for altruistic motives but simply because they can undertake masses of lucrative dentistry free of charge to the patient and paid directly from the primary care trust.

As a result, the dental fund at the PCT is depleted, with no funds available for the non-exempt population. This largesse is paid for by taxes on poor hard-working individuals who in many cases themselves find difficulty meeting their own and their families' living costs and have additionally to fund their own dentistry privately.

IDWAL JONES

London Road

St Ives

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