Radical plans to tackle Scotland’s poor record of dental care have been unveiled by the Scottish Executive.
A third of children in Scotland and half of all adults are not registered with a dentist.
The figures translate to higher levels of tooth decay than are found in people living in England and Wales.
The executive said it was committed to reversing the trend.
Deputy Health Minister Tom McCabe announced a consultation exercise on the future of dental services, telling parliament the current system was unsustainable.
Extra money is to be given to dentists who take on more NHS patients, who provide emergency treatment out of hours and to those in rural areas.
Mr McCabe said: “I have concluded that the present delivery system is unlikely to be sustainable in the longer term.
“A different form or forms of provision will be necessary to sustain an acceptable level of service and secure the improvements in oral health that we so badly need.”
He said the dental health of Scotland was “poor”, and “strongly related” to deprivation.
Financial incentives, effective from next April, include the doubling of remote area allowances to £6,000 and a rise in allowances for those entering practice in designated areas to £20,000 over two years.
The minister also announced an immediate cash injection of £1.5m to help establish and support existing emergency dental services provided by NHS boards.
The executive has pledged to systematically introduce free dental checks for all by 2007, and is seeking to expand dental training with the establishment of an outreach training centre in Aberdeen.
In February a £6m package was unveiled aimed at improving access to NHS dental treatment and modernising practices.
People in Scotland suffer poorer dental health than many of their European neighbours.
By the age of 14 most children already have decay in their adult teeth.
In Glasgow the main reason for admitting under 12s to hospital is to have rotten teeth removed under general anaesthetic.
Dentists say preventative care is the answer, but they are only paid for work actually carried out, so have called for this to be reviewed.
An increasing number of dentists opting to do more private work has already caused serious problems in rural areas.
The measures and consultation were welcomed by the British Dental Association (BDA).
Andrew Lamb, director of BDA Scotland, said: “It looks to be seeking Scottish solutions for Scottish problems.
“What Scotland needs is a long-term solution to meet the needs of its patients and ensure dentists are able to provide the care that the Scottish people deserve.”
However, the BDA warned that short-term funding was only a “sticking plaster solution” rather than addressing core problems and called for a 25% increase in the number of training places for dentists.
*Original article online at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/scotland/3285785.stm
*Note from FAN:
For a further understanding of the Scottish Childsmile program, which was created because of the Scottish Executive’s decision not to fluoridate, go to http://fluoridealert.org/content/childsmile/