Research by Healthwatch England found access to NHS dental care continued to be a problem for people across England, with a 22% rise in calls and complaints about dentistry between January and March 2021.There were wide inconsistencies across the country, with some people being asked to wait for up to three years for an NHS appointment while those able to afford private care could get an appointment within a week, it added. Even the cost of NHS dentistry was becoming an issue for many, with 61% of people polled feeling NHS dental treatments were expensive. More than a quarter (27%) of over 2,000 people surveyed said they struggled to pay NHS dental fees or avoided dental treatments altogether because they could not afford the costs. Nearly one in three (30%) reported feeling pressured into paying private fees to get all the dental treatment they need, with nearly two in five (39%) saying they had been charged extra for their NHS treatments. The situation had led to almost a quarter (23%) only visiting their dentist when they needed treatment rather than for regular check-ups. Imelda Redmond, national director of Healthwatch England, said: “The twin crisis of access and affordability hitting NHS dentistry means many people are not able to access timely care – and the poorest are hardest hit. “Reform of dental contracts needs to be a matter of urgency for this government. New arrangements should include making access to NHS dental services equal and affordable for everyone, regardless of where people live, their income and ethnicity. Failing to act now will result in long-term harm for thousands of people, putting even greater pressure on the already overstretched healthcare system.” The report coThe Covid-19 pandemic has amplified pre-existing problems around the cost of and access to dentistry in the UK, with four out of five people (80%) struggling to access dental care during the various lockdowns, according to research.