The credit crunch is being blamed for almost half the population in Croydon not visiting the dentist in at least two years.
An estimated 125,000 adults and 25,000 children in the borough have not even had a check up in that time, despite the fact that many dental practices in the area have the capacity to take on more NHS patients.
James Butcher, NHS Croydon’s specialist in dentistry, said: ‘We are trying to capture those people who have not been to the dentist for at least 24 months.
‘Fear of dentists is obviously a reason for some people staying away. Then there’s those who will visit the dentist when they are in pain, get their problem patched up and then not return.
‘But the other thing I’ve picked up from some dentists in recent months is the cost factor where people are struggling to pay.’
Some dentists in other parts of the country have had queues around the block once rare NHS slots become available. In contrast to this, Croydon has 40 dental practices currently accepting new NHS patients.
Mr Butcher added: ‘The number of patients going to see an NHS dentist in a 24-month period in Croydon has been growing each quarter for the last year.
‘Patients in Croydon have historically enjoyed good access to NHS dental services, and at the present time we have plenty of dentists in the Borough of Croydon ready and waiting to take on new NHS patients.’
To encourage people back to the service, a big marketing campaign has seen posters on Croydon buses and in doctors’ surgeries, and mailshots to residents.
NHS Croydon will send a birthday card to toddlers in the borough when they turn three. As well as birthday wishes, it contains useful information for parents such as how much sugar is in chocolate bars and a voucher which can be exchanged for a Brushing For Life pack. This contains a kids’ toothbrush, toothpaste and oral hygiene information to encourage parents to take their children to the dentist and take dental care seriously.