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British teeth are still causing trouble

2nd July 2009

The Economist highlights the problem of British teeth.


The National Health Service has struggled to cope with the dental needs of the population since its founding in 1948.

During its first two years it supplied 100 million false teeth and today, the legacy of bad teeth is putting NHS budgets under strain.

In recent years many dentists have turned to private practice as fees for doing NHS work have been squeezed.

The latest attempt to fix NHS dentistry came with a government review. Changes in 2006 had missed the mark and unintentionally rewarded dentists for over-treating fewer patients, and forced more than ever to suffer or go private.

The latest review, something of a U-turn, makes the rates more complicated but again pays dentists in part according to the number of NHS patients on their books.

The 2006 reform missed the mark because they were not piloted and also the evidence on what works and what does in dental terms of treatment is weak.

That led to variation in practice and “wiggle-room” for dentists to respond to financial incentives.

More generally, the gap between the necessary and the cosmetic is wider in dentistry than other areas of medicine, making it hard to agree on what the state should subsidise.

The area of advice and prevention is a problem too. But that may change because treatment in Britain dentistry is easily available to children on the NHS.

British children have fewer decayed, filled or missing teeth than several European countries and if these changes work, British teeth could soon be “dazzling the world.”


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Article Information

Title: British teeth are still causing trouble
Author: Mark Nicholls
Article Id: 12009
Date Added: 2nd Jul 2009


The Economist

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