England’s “Dental Deserts” and the urgent need to level up access to dentistry

The ADG has a launched a new report today highlighting the parts of England at most risk of becoming “dental deserts” without government action.

The pamphlet also includes new data obtained on the number of dentists undertaking NHS activity which reveals a further fall of over 2,000 from the March 2021 figure of 23,733[1].  ADG research and a Freedom of Information request[2] on workforce activity in January 2022 indicates a fall of 2,000 dentists in England undertaking NHS work this year, the lowest number for a decade.  Without addressing this workforce crisis, the backlog in care is unlikely to be recovered and “dental deserts” in England will continue to grow.

Last year, NHS data[3] showed that the Top 10 parts of England with the lowest number of NHS dentists per 100,000 of population were:

North Lincolnshire CCG                     32 NHS dentists (per 100,000 population)

North East Lincolnshire CCG             37 NHS dentists

East Riding of Yorkshire CCG             37 NHS dentists

Lincolnshire CCG                                38 NHS dentists

Norfolk & Waveney CCG                   38 NHS dentists

North Staffordshire CCG                   40 NHS dentists

Portsmouth CCG                                42 NHS dentists

Halton CCG                                         42 NHS dentists

Stoke on Trent CCG                           43 NHS dentists

NE London CCG                                  43 NHS dentists

Other areas of the country struggling to provide access to NHS dentistry in the “Top 20” include the Isle of Wight, Cornwall, Thurrock in Essex and Kent and the Medway towns.

With a joint foreword by Peter Aldous, MP for Waveney who represents one of the hardest hit parts of the country and ADG Chair Neil Carmichael, the paper proposes “six to fix” policy recommendations for Government to solve the crisis in access to dentistry in its pamphlet.

Neil Carmichael, Chair of the ADG, said: “Dental deserts not only stretch across the whole of the East of England from East Yorkshire, through Lincolnshire and down to Norfolk but are now emerging in many other ‘red wall’ constituencies that the Government wishes to ‘level up’.

“Our fears of an exodus from NHS dentistry are proving to be founded and the number of NHS dentists working in England is now at the lowest level for a decade.

“We welcome the Government’s commitment to reform of the recruitment and registration of overseas dentists – what needs to follow is NHS dental contract reform and investment in our future domestic workforce – only when this happens will we have a chance of tackling the oral health inequalities of England.”


[1] NHS Dental Statistics for England – 2020-21 Annual Report – NHS Digital

[2] FOI 23376 – Datasets – Open Data Portal BETA (nhsbsa.net)

[3] NHS Dental Statistics for England – 2020-21 Annual Report – NHS Digital Annexe 2 Table 2A

New figures show workforce crisis as number of NHS dentists fall across the whole of England

The Association of Dental Groups has responded to the publication of the Annual Report of NHS Dental Statistics for England 2020-2021 this week. 

The statistics reveal that overall, the number of dentists with NHS activity in England fell sharply to 23,733 –  a decrease of 951 on the previous year. 

All NHS regions in England saw dentist numbers fall in 2020-21.

At four NHS clinical commissioning groups, Portsmouth, West Suffolk, Bolton and Barnsley dentist numbers declined by 20% or more from the previous year. 

Neil Carmichael, Chair of the ADG, said: “These figures are the latest proof that the number of dentists working in the NHS is plummeting in many of the areas where they are most needed.  

“A perfect storm of a broken NHS contract, stressful working conditions during the pandemic and the consequence of Brexit means that now across the whole of England, dentists are leaving the NHS. 

“The workforce crisis we have warned of is now present and nationwide.  That’s why we urgently need to permanently increase the pipeline of new dental training places in the UK whilst also making it easier for overseas professionals to enter UK dentistry.”