The South Belfast MLA stated: “The inability to access dentistry within the public Health and Social Care system has long been known, and this investigation confirms it. Added to the fact that Northern Ireland has notably inferior dental health to other parts of the UK, including for example far higher rates of tooth extraction, and the situation is evidently beyond crisis point.
“One clear difficulty has been establishing that dental services are intrinsic to the health and social care system. For example, a dentist may well be the first person to pick up evidence of oral cancer or other serious conditions. With a third of the adult population still unregistered with any dentist, we can see the scale of the problem – both in terms of lack of early intervention across a range of conditions and in terms of general dental and oral health.
“Ensuring and encouraging access to dentists, as well as planning to have more of them, has to form an urgent part of our overall Health and Social Care Transformation process. Dentistry cannot just be seen as some optional extra; it must be a fundamental part of overall healthcare provision.”