View from the House: Brent North MP Barry Gardiner calls for support for dental labs

Brent North MP Barry Gardiner is calling for support for the dental laboratories.

Brent North MP Barry Gardiner is calling for support for the dental laboratories. - Credit: Archant

Toothache is a pain.

Before Covid, it was easy to fix. Just go along to your local friendly dentist and they would get it sorted in no time.

But since the lockdown in March we have all heard the gruesome stories of people in agony, resorting to pliers to take out their own offending teeth.

Dentists have had to take stringent precautions to keep

their patients and themselves safe and have simply been unable to do the same amount of work as before.

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Many NHS dentists have only done 20 per cent of their usual treatments. And emergency treatment for those in pain is having to take priority over the everyday running repairs.

What this means is that anyone who needs a crown or a bridge or simply needs to get their broken dentures repaired is finding it very difficult to get the work

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Rarely do we think about the people behind the dentist’s surgery – the dental laboratory technicians – but these are the people who keep us all with functioning mouths, happy smiles and able to enjoy real food with false teeth. These NHS laboratories manufacture 80pc of all crowns, bridges, dentures and implants and they are now in danger of having to close down because their work stream has dried up.

At the end of August, a Department of Health review recommended a number of packages of support for these dental labs but a month later nothing has happened. We should all be concerned.

Government must wake up and smell the novocaine!

It is of course right and vital that dentists themselves are supported to take care of their patients through this crisis. Dentists are on the frontline. But no army works without its supply chain and the dental laboratories and their technicians provide the logistical backup that keeps our dentist able to provide a full service that is about more than pain relief.

Hundreds of thousands of people up and down the country rely on this Cinderella service. Budget cuts in the NHS over the past decade have already hit their sector hard. When we eventually come out of Covid there is going to be a huge backlog of denture repairs and crowns that need to be manufactured.

If we do not speak up and support them now, then this skilled workforce will simply no longer be there. Dentistry as part of the NHS could well become a thing of the past. And that will not just be a pain in the mouth, but “a pain in the proverbial” for all of us.

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