Dentist caused us plenty of pain
clinics I was told the waiting list stretched back four to five years.
Another dentist’s receptionist said they were full to capacity and hadn’t taken anyone off their list since 2015.
But access to a health service dentist seems to be a postcode lottery.
If you live in Carmarthenshire, if my survey of dentists there is anything to go by, you are virtually guaranteed to be turned down.
Only one dentist offered me the potential of being signed up when I rang.
However, if you call Merthyr Tydfil your home, you have a strong possibility of striking it lucky. Four of the six dentists I rang offered to take me on straightaway.
More often than not I was offered the option of joining a waiting list, some of which won’t even be reviewed until next year.
The stark figure means patients must stump up hundreds of pounds more for some treatments than they would on the NHS.
For example, pay for a dental crown on the NHS and it will set you back £195. Have the same treatment privately and it could cost you more than twice that.
Of the 13 dentists I contacted in Swansea, one was able to take me on — but warned the situation could change in days.
Another said they could only take on children as new NHS patients, while many said they had a waiting list stretching for months.
In Newport, it’s a grim picture if you’re an adult.
Some dentists said they might be taking on in the new year, but all had no vacancies for adult patients.
In Cardiff, 17 calls to surgeries yielded just three “yes” responses.
According to the British Dental Association (BDA), patients in some parts of Wales are being forced to travel up to 90 miles for NHS treatment.
Data from NHS Direct reveals that people in Aberystwyth face the longest round-trip journey to reach an NHS practice — 87.6 miles — while those in Newtown must travel 80 miles, and those in Cardiff could see a 30-mile trip.
A spokesman for the BDA said the difficulties arose after a 2006 health shake-up, which saw a cap placed on budgets.
He said: “It doesn’t help when there’s a high need from patients who need time spent on them when you have a limited amount of money stretched too thinly.”
He said the association had taken the message to the Welsh Assembly and was in negotiations regarding a new contract.
Figures put to Welsh Assembly members recently revealed that £20 million had been “clawed back” from local NHS dental services in the last three years because practitioners had been unable to meet tough targets set by the Government in their contracts.
Just 15% of NHS practices were said to be taking on new adult NHS patients, and only 28% were accepting new child patients.
Tom Bysouth, chair of the BDA’S Welsh General Dental Practice Committee, said: “The Welsh Government talks about prevention, inequalities and sustainability. But we require deeds not words to guarantee the future of this service and end the postcode lottery of care.
“It’s utterly perverse that £20 million has been lost from local services while some patients are travelling 90 miles to see a dentist under the NHS.
“Sadly, it’s the result of a failed system.
“Wales has secured major breakthroughs investing in prevention among children, with health inequalities narrowed and a chance to shave millions off treatment costs. What’s missing is a willingness to apply that logic to fixing the system at the heart of this service. Any progress hinges on the Welsh Government delivering real reform.”
A Welsh Government spokesman said: “It is disappointing that BDA Wales fail to recognise the significant changes we are making as part of our ongoing dental contract reform programme.
“BDA Wales is actively involved in this programme and changes are being welcomed by dental clinicians. There are now some 120,000 more NHS patients regularly receiving NHS dental care than a decade ago.
“However, we acknowledge there are areas where access remains difficult and are working to reach a position where everyone in Wales who wants access to NHS dental care can get it.
“If a dental contract underperforms by over 5%, the health board is required in legislation to recover the under-delivered amount. In many cases the recovered funding is reinvested straight back into alternative NHS dentistry by the health board.
“Any resource recovered as a result of dental contractual underperformance remains with the health board.”
We contacted health boards across South Wales for comments.