Calls to extend free dental care to avoid oral health 'crisis'

Scottish Labour has called on the SNP to extend free dental care to further groups in order to avoid a looming oral health ‘crisis’.

Dentist Fiez Mugha and Dental Nurse Johanna Bartha carry out a procedure on a patient. Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images
Dentist Fiez Mugha and Dental Nurse Johanna Bartha carry out a procedure on a patient. Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images

NHS dental care is currently free in Scotland for children under the age of 18, full-time students who are 18 years old, and pregnant women and those who have given birth within the last year.

But Scottish Labour has called for these eligibility criteria to be extended after the Covid-19 pandemic as many who are entitled to free care have not received it due to lockdown restrictions.

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Scottish Labour health spokesperson Monica Lennon said: “Thousands of Scots have missed out on routine treatment during the pandemic. Many have been forced to choose between living in pain or going private.

“I raised extending the eligibility period for free dental treatment with the Scottish government, after constituents told me how difficult it had been to get dental care this year.

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“SNP Ministers should ensure that people don’t miss out on treatment they are entitled to and extend the eligibility period for free treatment beyond the pandemic.

“This small act would ensure that those under 18, students and pregnant women would get the treatment they are entitled to.”

“Action must be taken to prevent a dental health disaster, and this would help.”

In response to a parliamentary question from Ms Lennon asking if the eligibility criteria would be extended, Public Health Minister Joe Fitzpatrick said last month: “The provision of free NHS dental treatment for children and young people under 18 years of age; people under 19 years of age and in qualifying full-time education; and expectant mothers or people who have borne a child in the previous 12 months is fixed by primary legislation as set out in the National Health Services (Scotland) Act 1978.

“People with urgent dental problems have been able to receive care and treatment throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and as we have suppressed the virus we have been able to reintroduce more services.”

NHS dental services were paused during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, but resumed in a limited capacity from November 1.

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