Jeremy Hunt was accused of sneaking out an inflation-busting hike in dental charges when MPs backs were turned.
Fees will rise by 5% both this year and next, the Department of Health announced – with similar increases in prescription charges.
The cost of basic dental care will rise by 80p to £19.70 from 1 April and by a further 90p to £20.60 in 2017-18, a written parliamentary statement said.
Band two charges will increase by £2.60 in 2016-17 to £53.90 and by £2.40 to £56.30 next year, while a band three course of treatment will cost £233.70 (up £11.20) and then £244.30 (up £10.60).
Health Minister Alistair Burt said: ‘Dental charges remain an important contribution to the overall cost of dental services, first introduced in 1951, but we will keep protecting the most vulnerable within society.
‘NHS dental treatment will remain free for those under the age of 18, those under the age of 19 and receiving full-time education, pregnant women or those who have had a baby in the previous twelve months, and those on qualifying low income benefits.
‘If someone does not qualify for these exemptions, full or partial help may be available through the NHS Low Income Scheme.’
Kick in the teeth
But Labour pointed out the increases had been quietly revealed on a Friday, when the vast majority of MPs are at engagements in their constituencies, far from Westminster.
Andrew Gwynne, the party’s public health spokesman, added: ‘These increases are a kick in the teeth for patients.
‘Prescription charges and dental fees can really build up and impose a considerable cost, particularly at a time when family budgets are being squeezed.
‘The truth is Tory Ministers are increasing these charges because they’ve lost control of NHS finances.’
The changes will also see a single prescription charge rise by 20p to £8.40, which means the cost will have increased by £1.20 to £8.40 since David Cameron came to power in 2010.
The British Dental Association (BDA) has slammed the decision by the Government to increase dental charges in England by 5% in 2016, with an unprecedented further 5% increase announced for 2017.
There are no significant rises in other NHS charges, including prescriptions.
‘This unprecedented hike in dental charges will only serve to discourage the patients that are most in need of care,’ Henrik Overgaard-Nielsen, chair of the BDA’s General Dental Practice Committee, said.
‘This money doesn’t go to NHS dentists – they are being asked to play the role of tax collector, while our patients are singled out to subsidise the health service.
‘We can’t tell them how this extra money will be spent, and whether a penny of it will actually end up improving dental care or access to dental services.
‘For the Government these increases may be a source of easy money, but they will only undermine the relationship between patients and practitioners.
‘These charges were first introduced in 1951 to limit demand for NHS dentistry, and that’s precisely what they do best.
‘The Government has given patients another reason to avoid visiting their dentist.’