The Guardian newspaper, Daily Telegraph and BBC Radio 2's Jeremy Vine all recently provided strong coverage of the shortage of dentists in the UK.
Named ‘dental deserts’ by the media, it has been reported that large parts of England have no access to NHS dentistry for miles and miles and miles.
Why might this be the case ? ...questioned the media.
As with any job - to be satisfied in that job, we need to be stimulated, challenged, rewarded and appreciated.
When those four qualities are lacking …most people would rationally seek another job…and preferably a job where at least one - but ideally all four - of those conditions are present…
I teach postgraduate dentists at the University of Edinburgh and I examine dentists at the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. I also participate in a Dental Business group and regularly travel the length and breadth of the U.K. attending courses. In this capacity, I get to meet lots and lots of dentists ..many of whom practice in England. When I ask those dentists how they feel about working in NHS dentistry the responses - unfortunately - are overwhelmingly negative...
The main reasons for their dis-satisfaction ?
1. The work is not challenging - often working like a conveyor belt operative rather than a health care professional
2. The work is not stimulating - out of date concepts and materials are used with little incentive to use the latest techniques
3. The work is not well paid - many NHS treatments simply do not cover the running costs let alone allow for a wage or in the case of younger dentists ..to begin repaying student debt (dental education isn’t free)
4. I do not feel appreciated - the system does not reward time spent with the patient, professional advice or whole mouth planning - rather it only rewards 'items of service IE patchwork treatment on individual teeth'
For dentists seeking to leave the NHS… it is usually nothing to do with greed, laziness or abandonment of social principles.. but simply that their current role in the NHS does not provide them with stimulation, challenges, rewards and appreciation.
This is the most likely reason for the dental deserts.