The British Dental Association (BDA) said patient access across England has ‘fallen off a cliff’ since March, warning tens of millions of patients could lose out on dental care.
Figures from NHS Digital show 405,712 adults were seen by a dentist in NHS Nottingham and Nottinghamshire CCG in the two years to the end of June – the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence's recommended longest interval between check-ups.
This was four per cent fewer than had been seen in the two years to the end of March, around the time the vast majority of dentists were forced to close because of the coronavirus lockdown.
The recommended longest interval for children is just 12 months, and the NHS figures show fewer under-18s are also being seen by Nottingham and Nottinghamshire dentists than normal.
By the end of June, 116,692 children had been seen in the past year – down from 129,156 seen by the end of March.
Routine dentistry was largely suspended in England between March 25 and June 8, with 600 NHS urgent dental care centres remaining open in their place.
Between the end of March and the end of June, the number of adults seen by dentists across England in the last two years fell by four per cent.
But the BDA warns the latest statistics do not fully show the ‘unprecedented fall in access’ driven by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Dave Cottam, chairman of the BDA's general dental practice committee, said: "Since March patient access has fallen off a cliff.
"We should lament how few children and adults made it to an NHS dentist last year, but the real question now is how we can even bring the service back to these levels?
"We need government to work with us to rebuild capacity."
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: Last year more than seven million children had been seen by a dentist.
“Twenty-one million adults were seen by a dentist in the last two years up to June and we are working closely with NHS England to improve access.”