Labour will bring back free dental check-ups if they win the election.
The £22.70 fee to see an NHS dentist will be axed and leader Jeremy Corbyn yesterday said the ultimate ambition is to scrap ALL dental fees.
The £450million-a-year plan will free up resources long-term by focusing on prevention. Fees were introduced in 1951 to pay for UK involvement in the Korean War.
But one in five adults puts off seeing a dentist because of the £22.70 charge for a basic visit. Under the first stage of Labour ’s plans, check-ups, oral cancer examinations, X-rays, clinical scaling and polishing and emergency treatment won’t cost a penny.
And it comes on top of £26billion Mr Corbyn has pledged to the NHS if he becomes PM.
He told the Sunday Mirror: “More than half of adults and 40 per cent of children haven’t been to the dentist in the last year. If you don’t go for check-ups, you store up problems.
“Over 100,000 are admitted to hospital every year because of problems with their teeth.
“This is the first step towards making all dentistry services free of charge as part of a truly universally free health service.”
The move comes after worrying numbers turned to internet kits for scaling and makeshift fillings which can cause major problems.
And 515,000 patients a year with toothache go to GPs or A&E – costing the NHS more than £38million.
British Dental Association chair-man Mick Armstrong welcomed the Labour pledge. He said: “Dentists are health professionals, not tax collectors.
|Charges discourage attendance and have become a substitute for adequate state investment.
“Sadly, prevention is impossible when moderate income families need to think twice about seeking care.”
More than 100 children a day have rotting teeth removed in hospital and 90 per cent of cases could have been prevented by early treatment. And decay is the leading cause of admissions among kids aged five to nine.
Charity mobile dental clinics more familiar in developing countries now offer emergency care across England.
Dentists are often the first to detect oral cancers which claim more lives than testicular and cervical cancer combined. Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “It’s time we put prevention at the heart of our approach to dental health.”
Check-ups cost £14.30 in Wales and have been free in Scotland since 2006.
Cuts by the Tories – still leading Labour in opinion polls – saw dentists quit the NHS in droves. Portsmouth patients have to get a ferry to Gosport for NHS checks and in parts of Cornwall it means a 120-mile round trip.
All dentistry was free for three years after the founding of the NHS in 1948.
Fees were applied in 1951 to fund UK involvement in the Korean War, raising £7million from dentures alone.