Wigan has one of the highest rates of tooth decay in the whole country, according to figures.
Between 2018/19 and 2020/21, NHS dentists in Wigan performed 176,122 fillings on adults and 53,755 on children – a rate of 67 fillings for every 100 adults and 77 for every 100 children in the area.
The national average is 51 fillings per 100 adults and 62 fillings for every 100 children.
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The pandemic has created a huge backlog in dental treatments and according to the latest dental statistics, the number of treatments performed by NHS dentists in Greater Manchester fell by 71pc – from 2.3 million in 2019/20 to 670,893 in 2020/21.
Covid-19 restrictions and a hesitancy among patients to make appointments have been blamed for the drop in procedures such as fillings, extractions, and crowns.
The backlog it has created is particularly bad news for Wigan after Manchester Evening Newsreported on some of the dental nightmares residents have been experiencing in the past year.
Health watchdogs Healthwatch Wigan and Leigh confirmed they had seen a rise in complaints from residents unable to access free dental care on the NHS.
One resident said they were quoted £800 to fix one tooth privately after phoning up to 25 dentists in and around the borough – none of which were accepting NHS patients.
The start of the Covid-19 pandemic saw dental practices across the country forced to close, meaning all dental appointments had to be postponed or cancelled, except for urgent emergency treatments.
Despite dental practices reopening as restrictions eased, many people have still avoided routine check-ups and only visit the dentist once they are in extreme pain.
According to the FDI World Dental Federation, it means many have developed advanced tooth decay and related complications, including infections, which makes treatment more complex.
Nationally, 12.0 million treatments were performed by NHS dentists in 2020/21 – down 68pc from 38.4 million the year before.
Meanwhile, Healthwatch England say reports have indicated serious issues with dentistry during the pandemic, including people being asked to wait as long as three years for an appointment, and others advised to carry out “DIY dentistry”.
To help clear the enormous backlog created by Covid-19 disruption, the government has announced it will spend £50 million to create an extra 350,000 extra NHS dental appointments over the next few months.
The scheme will see dentists paid more than a third more to work outside of their normal hours, to treat people in the early morning, evening, and at weekends.
Children, people with learning difficulties, autism or severe mental health problems will be prioritized.
It’s hoped the fund will help to close the gap left after an estimated 38 million appointments were missed since the start of the pandemic.
Sara Hurley, the chief dental officer for England, said: “More than 600 urgent dental health hubs were rapidly ramped up during the pandemic to deliver urgent care for patients and the NHS is now getting key services like dentistry back to pre-pandemic levels – injecting an extra £50 million into routine services will help provide check-ups and treatment for hundreds and thousands of people.”
However, the British Dental Association has warned that many practices don’t have the capacity to increase their workload, despite this extra investment, and have criticized the “time limited offer”.
Shawn Charlwood, the chair of the BDA general dental practice committee said: “After a decade of cuts a cash-starved service risks being offered money that can’t be spent.
“Hard-pressed practices are working against the clock and many will struggle to find capacity ahead of April for this investment to make a difference.
“Until today not a penny of the government’s multi-billion-pound catch-up program had reached dentistry. This is progress but must be just the start if we are to rebuild a service millions depend on.”
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