CORNISH MPs have been urged to address a ‘dentistry crisis’ following new figures that show average waiting time to register for an NHS dentist is nearly four years.

Data obtained from a Freedom of Information of Request to the Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly Integrated Care Board (ICB) has revealed the depth of the dentistry crisis gripping the south west and across the country.

At present, there are 41,555 people on the NHS dental waiting list in Cornwall and Isles of Scilly.

For those thousands of people, the current average waiting time to register with a dentist in region is 1441 days, which translates to three years and 11 months. For under 18s, the average waiting time is 1351 days, or three years and eight months.

The ICB has said that the pressures of NHS primary dental cares in the south west are “severe” but that they are working in partnership with the NHS south west collaborative commissioning hub, local dentists and the seven integrated ICBs to develop a dental recovery plan.

Neil Carmichael, a former MP and chair of the Association of Dental Groups (ADG), the trade association which filed the freedom of information request, said: “these shocking figures unfortunately replicate what we are seeing across the country. UK dentistry is in a state of crisis.”

The Association of Dental Groups has restated its campaign to ‘fill the gap’ in the UK’s dental workforce following the new Government being established.

Labour has recognised the importance of increasing the numbers of appointments available, particularly in rural and coastal areas.

Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats, who have increased their number to 71 MPs, including in North Cornwall with Ben Maguire and St Ives MP Andrew George, have promised to “guarantee access to an NHS dentist for everyone needing urgent and emergency care.” But as Carmichael explains: “We simply do not have enough dentists to carry out the radical increase of appointments which the new government is promising. The UK has per capita among the lowest number of dentists in Europe, with only Bulgaria and Poland having fewer dentists per 1,000 people.

“Difficulties in recruiting dental professionals is what is fuelling the lack of appointments in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

“As it takes five years to train as a dentist, short term the Government desperately needs to boost recruitment by allowing overseas dentists to practice. At present, there are highly qualified overseas dentists who are already living in the UK, stuck waiting to have their application approved by the General Dental Council and take the Overseas Registration Exam.”

The Association of Dental Groups is now urging the new Government to do everything at its disposal to encourage the General Dental Council to increase the frequency of part one and part two of the Overseas Registration Exam and deliver part one of the Overseas Registration Exam online or in British Council offices overseas.

It also wants to see improvements in the processing time for new applicants wanting to take the Overseas Registration Exam and prioritise candidates who will work in the NHS and will most likely pass the Overseas Registration Exam.

Carmichael said: “Just 1,000 more dentists would create 750,000 appointments, which could help the new Government deliver target pledges in places like Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.” The Association of Dental Groups is calling the all new cast list of Labour and Liberal Democrat Cornish MPs - in the constituencies of St Ives, Camborne and Redruth, Truro and Falmouth, St Austell and Newquay, North Cornwall and South East Cornwall -  to join the fight to fill the gap in dental recruitment.