Thousands of patients in Scotland face going without free orthodontic treatment after news that NHS services are set to be reduced.
Those with ‘borderline’ orthodontic problems could be ineligible for help while it is likely that only the most severe cases will be financed by the government.
There is due to be a consultation process in Scotland to look at ‘prioritisation of need’, which may cut funding and drastically reduce services, according to the British Orthodontic Society.
The cost of providing orthodontic treatment in the Scottish NHS general dental service in 2006-07 was £12.1 million, and 14,916 patients were fitted with at least one fixed brace or other device.
Decisive cuts in services could severely harm Scotland’s already poor dental health record, which is one of the worst in western Europe.
Robbie Lawson, Scottish representative of the British Orthodontic Society, told the Sunday Herald: ‘It is in the pipeline that funding for orthodontic care will be drastically cut back. We can guess the outcome will be that a significant number who currently qualify for free care will not.
‘The index of need will go from one to five, where one is low need and five is high need. We guess that a three or perhaps four will be considered borderline. For protruding or buck teeth, Ken Dodd would still qualify but the actor who plays Neville Longbottom in Harry Potter, Matthew Lewis, may well be borderline.
‘This would also apply to post-restorative or dental accident orthodontic treatment. One of the problems with this is that the perception of need is often with the child.
‘Some children with very misaligned or protruding teeth may not be bothered, while other children with what might be termed a low need may be very self-conscious about their teeth. Research shows that children can be bullied very badly about their appearance and teeth. It is psycho-social reasons that drive the need for orthodontic care.
‘If this funding is drastically reduced, it will have a huge impact on Scotland’s poor dental record.’
John Cameron, senior dental adviser of NHS Dental Practitioner Services, said: ‘There is speculation among orthodontists that, as part of the new statement of dental remuneration, orthodontic services are going to be cut to bring orthodontic care in line with the position in England.’
Shona Robison, minister for public health, said: ‘The Scottish government has no current plans to withdraw NHS orthodontic treatment for children or to change the way it is provided.’