For the fifth consecutive quarter, the number of patients seen has exceeded the March 2006 baseline; when the current dental contract was introduced.

A total of 28.9 million patients were seen in the 24-month period ending December 2010, an increase of 773,000 (2.7%) on the March 2006 baseline.

This measure has steadily increased since its lowest point in June 2008.

The percentage of the population seen by an NHS dentist exceeds the March 2006 baseline in four Strategic Health Authorities (SHAs).

Dental activity
There were an estimated 9.9 million Courses of Treatment (CoTs) in Q2 2010/11, an increase of 0.3 million (2.7%) on Q2 2009/10.

CoTs rose for each treatment band except ‘Other’ in Q2 of 2010/11 compared to the corresponding quarter in 2009/10.

There was an estimated 3.5% increase in Units of Dental Activity (UDAs) over the corresponding period.

This greater percentage increase in UDAs over CoTs is due to a higher rise in more complex, band 3 activity, which generates a higher number of UDAs than simpler, band 1 activity. There was an estimated 6.8% increase in Band 3 CoTs (and therefore UDAs) from Q2 2009/10 to Q2 2010/11, compared to an estimated 2.5% increase in Band 1 treatments.

Growth in CoTs was seen in eight SHAs from Q2 2009/10 to Q2 2010/11.

The largest percentage increase was seen in South Central SHA which saw a provisional 5.4 per cent increase in CoTs in the period.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: ‘Whilst access to NHS dentistry has improved since May 2010, we are clear that more needs to be done to increase the proportion of people able to access NHS dentistry, especially for children.

‘The White Paper set out our intention to bring in a new dental contract based on registration, capitation and quality to drive this. Our aim is to improve oral health for adults and children as well as increase access to NHS dental services, and pilots to test elements of the proposed new system will start in the spring.’