DENTAL care services in Oxfordshire are still feeling the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, according to new figures showing activity is yet to recover.
In the year to March, a total of 350,892 courses of treatment were delivered to adults and children in the former Oxfordshire CCG area, as shown by figures from NHS Digital.
This was more than double the 172,629 treatments delivered in 2020-21, but still 29 per cent below the pre-pandemic figure of 495,657.
Different figures show in the two years to June, 203,253 adults saw their local NHS dentist in Oxfordshire – 38 per cent of the over-18 population.
READ MORE: Sign up to our health newsletter, out every Thursday morning
That represented another fall from 42 per cent in the 24 months to June 2021, which saw dental activity first hampered by the pandemic, and a drop from 51 per cent in the two years to June 2019.
Some 53 per cent of children (76,159) were seen by NHS dentists between July 2021 and June this year, compared to 40 per cent over the same period the previous year, and 66% in 2018-19.
According to the NHS Digital figures, there were 450 NHS dentists working across the former NHS Oxfordshire CCG area in the year to March – meaning each one had the equivalent of 1,513 patients on their roster.
An NHS spokesman said: “The latest data show dental services are recovering post-pandemic, with over 26 million patient treatments delivered last year – up 120 per cent from the year before, along with 1.7 million more children getting seen by an NHS dentist.
READ MORE: GP referrals in Oxfordshire: share your thoughts with Healthwatch
“To further support the ongoing restoration of NHS dentistry, we recently announced the first significant changes to dentistry since 2006, helping practices to improve access for the patients that need dental care the most.”
Patients in Oxfordshire have reported being unable to get an NHS dentist as watchdog Healthwatch asked for their opinions on accessing dental care during the pandemic.
Their report said: “Access to NHS dentistry has been one of the most significant issues people have raised with us over the last 18 months. We know that many people are still struggling to get the dental treatment they need.
“We heard that restricted access had meant that some people were left in pain or with worsening oral health, and how wealthier people were able to access treatment by paying privately.
“Following this work, NHS England announced additional dental appointments in Oxfordshire.”
Rosalind Pearce, executive director of Healthwatch Oxfordshire, said: “We are still hearing from people on a daily basis that they are finding it difficult to see a dentist, so the situation had not really changed – this is an area of big concern for us.
“Not everyone can afford to go private – the cost of that is not within reach for most people and having healthy teeth is important, to be able to talk and eat without problems.”
This story was written by Anna Colivicchi, she joined the team this year and covers health stories for the Oxfordshire papers.
Get in touch with her by emailing: Anna.email@example.com
Follow her on Twitter @AnnaColivicchi