Armed forces dentistry on the march

Access to dentistry for members of the armed forces is improving, government figures suggest.

The number of uniformed dentists employed by the Defence Dental Service (DDS) remained static at 250 almost every year from 1997 to 2006, the Ministry of Defence data shows.

Over the same period, however, the number of servicemen and women has fallen, from 210,820 in 1997 to 195,850 in 2006, the latest year for which information is available.

It means the ratio of dentists to armed forces personnel has improved from one per 840 servicemen and women a decade ago to one per 780 today.

The only year in which the ratio was lower was in 2002, when the number of service dentists briefly increased to 270 – one for every 760 service men and women. The number of service dentists returned to 250 the following year.

The figures were presented to MPs by Defence Minister Derek Twigg in a Parliamentary Written Answer.

Mr Twigg said in addition to its service dentists, the DDS employed 38 full-time and ten part-time Civilian Dental Practitioners. If the full-time civilian practitioners were included in the 2006 total it would bring the ratio of dentists to personnel for that year down to 1:680.

The Defence Dental Service, which provides dental care for service personnel in the UK and overseas, is a tri-service organisation employing in total more than 1,000 people from the Royal Navy, Army, Royal Air Force and civilian sector.

The staff includes trained dentists, hygienists, technicians or dental nurses as well as critical support staff.

By Andy Tate, Parliamentary Correspondent

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