The meeting, at City Hall this evening, was prompted by a new Healthwatch report which found that 43 per cent of adults and 30 per cent of children surveyed did not have an NHS dentist and that many had struggled to find one.
Some had even resorted to ‘DIY dentistry’, including home tooth extraction, while many others had ended up at A&E, the meeting heard.
Victoria Simmons, Healthwatch manager, said: “W e know that there’s a problem in our district. We think the system needs to acknowledge that and work positively with us, and I would just like to reiterate the scale of the problem our report has uncovered.”
The meeting heard the way dentists were commissioned had been set up some years ago, with little scope for a review.
Committee members were told that no dental practice in the district was currently listed on the website NHS Choices as being able to take on adult NHS patients.
Neil Coulter, senior primary care manager for NHS England in Yorkshire and the Humber, said: “If a practice does advertise on NHS Choices that they have access, they are very often overwhelmed.”
He said NHS England and partners such as Healthwatch had been looking at a pilot project to tackle the issue in the area, but NHS England had instead decided to wait until there was further evidence of the issue across Yorkshire, prompting some on the committee to accuse it of not dealing with the matter.
A spokesman for the Local Dental Network, which represents dentist practices, said: “From a Local Dental Network point of view, it looks like this problem is being kicked into some very long grass.”
But he said: “I don’t understand the humour around people who are saying dentists dare not advertise any space because they will be overwhelmed. Well, I didn’t find that funny. I think that seriously highlights the problem.”
He said: “We have a safeguarding board that deals with dental neglect, it is that serious. We have children who are having to undergo a series of anaesthesia events, with all the risks that involves, because they have got rotten stumps that need to be removed.”
Cllr Berry called for a steering group to be set up to look at possible solutions to the issue.
“How do you attract dentists to work in an area with all these problems?” he said.