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A public perception of access to NHS dentistry


Objective: To quantify the level of unmet dental access need which had been reported locally and to provide information about the perceived need for dental treatment with particular reference to those not registered for continuing NHS care.

Design: A postal survey of adults resident in Aylesbury Vale, Buckinghamshire was carried out toward the end of 1994.

Subjects and methods: 2000 adults aged between 35 and 54 years were randomly selected:

Results: A response rate of 68% matched well with the population under study. 16% of people were unable to access any regular dental care and this group had the highest treatment need, with more experience of broken fillings and toothache within the previous year. 15% thought they were registered with an NHS dentist, but were not. Only 28% of all respondents were confirmed registered with an NHS dentist. 27% said they received private care, and one-third of these said it was because they had been unable to find an NHS dentist. In total, 74% of the population under study thought they were receiving regular dental care and only 6% did not want regular care. More than one-third of respondents volunteered comments about dental services. The majority were supportive of dentists but critical of the lack of NHS provision.

Conclusions: This survey indicates a substantial unmet perceived need in Aylesbury Vale, with more than one-third of this population unable to access continuing NHS dental services which they prefer. There is also a need for emergency and occasional dental treatment for a small proportion of this population. It is likely that a similar situation exists elsewhere in England


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Falcon, H., Hurst, C. A public perception of access to NHS dentistry. Br Dent J 184, 351–353 (1998).

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