Scottish NHS dental patients 'at record level'

Image caption,
The Liberal Democrat health spokesman said the figures exposed an urban-rural divide

The number of people registered with an NHS dentist has risen to a new high, the Scottish government said.

The latest figures revealed increases to 83% of children and 69% of adults by December last year.

But they showed regional differences, with only 50% of people in Grampian registered with an NHS dentist compared with 77% in Ayrshire and Arran.

Public Health Minister Shona Robison said a million more people had registered since 2007.

It had been hoped the launch of a new postgraduate dentistry course in Aberdeen in 2009 would reverse the long-term decline.

In 2007, less than 50% of adults in Scotland had access to NHS dental services and there were thousands of patients on waiting lists.

That has now risen to a national average of 72%.

The statistics showed that 80% of all registered patients went to their dentist for treatment over the two years to December 2010.

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Jamie Stone, the MSP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, said an urban-rural divide in provision remains.

In the more urban NHS boards such as Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Forth Valley, and Lanarkshire, nearly 75% of residents were registered by the latest quarter.

But this falls to about 50% in the Highlands and Shetland and 55% in the Borders.

Mr Stone said: "The Aberdeen postgraduate dental school should be bringing more dentists to areas like the north east and the Highlands, but obviously not enough is being done to persuade them to stay.

"Rural and remote parts of Scotland cannot be left behind.

"Everyone has an equal right to access NHS services including dentistry, no matter where in the country they live."

Labour's health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said there was no room for complacency.

She explained: "There is only a limited benefit in being registered with a dentist if you don't actually use the service.

"I would urge the Scottish government not to be complacent and to do more to get the message across that good oral health is important and everybody should visit their dentist on a regular basis."

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