The number of people registered with an NHS dentist in Scotland has increased along with the number of NHS dentists – but more than half of all adults still do not have one.
By the end of September 2007, 48.6% of adults were registered with an NHS dentist – up from 46.5% in June. Child registrations also rose, from 67.5% to 69.9%.
The official statistics also revealed a 2.7% increase in the number of health service dentists between 2006 and 2007.
Dentists say that last year’s change in the way NHS registrations were recorded was likely to account for much of the increase.
But Public Health Minister Shona Robison maintained that the figures as ‘really encouraging’.
She said: ‘I am very pleased that more people are now registered with an NHS dentist than have been for a number of years.
‘The Scottish Government is absolutely committed to widening access to NHS dentistry. But I am not complacent – I know there is still much more to be done and some parts of Scotland still have problems with access to an NHS dentist.’
Liberal Democrats said that the figures showed only a ‘minor’ rise in NHS dentists and patients.
Health spokesman Ross Finnie said: ‘These figures are not very encouraging given Scotland’s poor oral health record. The Scottish Government must do more to increase the number of dentists in Scotland.’
Mary Scanlon, the Scottish Tories’ health spokeswoman, said: ’We still have a third of all children and over half of adults not registered with a dentist. It is a disgraceful state of affairs.’
Andrew Lamb, the BDA’s director for Scotland, said the figures should be treated with caution because of the change in the way registrations are recorded – in the past, patients were deemed to be no longer registered if they did not visit their dentist for 15 months. That has increased to 36 months.
Mr Lamb said these latest statistics were the first to reflect the new registration period, and added: ‘A bigger jump in the number of patients deemed to be registered might have been expected.
‘It is clear that access to NHS dentistry remains a problem for many people in Scotland, and these figures will be a cause of concern to the Scottish Government.’