New figures on patients seen by dentists show changes during closure period

NHS Dental Statistics, England: 2019-201 contains information about dental activity2 including patients treated by NHS dentists and the number of patients seen within the maximum recommended gap between appointments.

Dental practices were instructed to close for routine care and provide only urgent treatment from March 25 to June 8 as part of restrictions to reduce the risk of coronavirus (COVID-19) transmission3.

According to analysis in this publication, 21.01m adult patients were seen for NHS dental treatment in the 24 months to the end of June 20204, representing 47.7% of the population. This is a reduction of 876,000 adults compared to the 24 months to the end of February 20205, when 21.89m adults or 49.7% of the population were seen.

For child patients, 6.30m were seen in the 12 months6 to the end of June 2020, representing 52.7% of the population. This is a reduction of 758,000 children compared to the 12 months to February 2020, when 7.06m or 59.0% of children were seen.

In 2019-20, 38.38m courses of treatment7 were completed by NHS dentists. This is compared to 39.72m in 2018-19, a drop of 3.36%. Examinations were the most commonly carried out treatments for both adults and children, while the second most common treatments were scale and polish for adults and fluoride varnish for children.

Charges to patients for NHS dental treatment8 totalled £854.44m in 2019-20, compared to £854.58m in 2018-19.

For the second consecutive year, more than half of dentists were female – 51.3%, compared to 48.7% who were male.

The report also includes regional information showing the number of child and adult patients seen, as well as the number of courses of treatment, the type of treatment and charges to patients.

Two further reports relating to primary care dentists in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have also been published today.

Dentists’ Working Patterns, Motivation and Morale, 2018/19 and 2019/20 presents the findings of the biennial Dental Working Patterns Survey. Information includes weekly hours of work, the provision of NHS and private dentistry, the division of time between clinical and non-clinical work and annual leave of primary care dentists. The publication also reports levels of motivation and morale in the workforce, including any relationships between motivation and the listed working patterns, as well as exploring potential causes of low morale.

Dental Earnings and Expenses Estimates 2018/2019 provides detailed statistics on the earnings and expenses of self-employed primary care dentists who undertook some NHS work during the financial year.


Read the full reports

NHS Dental Statistics for England – 2019-20 Annual Report

Dental Working Hours – 2018/19 and 2019/20: Working Patterns, Motivation and Morale

Dental Earnings and Expenses Estimates 2018/2019


Reference notes

  1. This report covers work carried out by ‘high street dentists’, who account for the majority of dental activity, and work undertaken by dentists under vocational training. The publication does not cover dental services provided privately or activity undertaken in hospitals.
  2. Dental activity is measured through Courses of Treatment (CoT) and Units of Dental Activity (UDA). On a patient’s first visit, the dentist determines the amount of work needed. The patient then starts a CoT. Depending on the complexity of the treatment, each CoT represents a given number of UDAs. These are monitored through the year to ensure delivery of the contracted activity.
  3. On 25 March 2020, dental practices were instructed to defer routine, non-urgent dental care, including orthodontics, and establish remote urgent care services to limit the transmission of COVID-19. Networks of urgent dental care sites were set up to provide face-to-face care where clinically necessary. Dental practices could commence opening from 8 June 2020 for all face to face care, including non-urgent treatment, where practices assessed they had the necessary safety requirements in place.
  4. Patients seen shows the number of adult patients who received NHS dental care in the previous 24 months, where their last Course of Treatment started within the past 24 months.
  5. To estimate the difference in patients seen during the COVID-19 closure period in England, the number of adult patients seen in the previous 24 months from February 2020 (before COVID-19 closures) will be used as a baseline. This would approximately be the expected patients seen if the dental practices were not instructed to close. The actual number of adult patients seen for each month affected by COVID-19 closures (March 2020 to June 2020) was subtracted from the number of patients seen up to 29 February 2020 to calculate the difference in the number of adult patients who were seen in the previous 24 month time period.
  1. For children, the measure shows the number who received NHS dental care in the previous 12 months, where their last Course of Treatment started within the past 12 months.
  2. A Course of Treatment is a patient examination, an assessment of their oral health, the planning of any treatment to be provided because of the examination and assessment, and the provision of any planned treatment (including any treatment planned at a time other that the time of the initial examination) to that patient. Courses of Treatment are banded accord to the most complex treatment in the course:  Band 1 – check up and simple treatment eg examination, x-rays and prevention advice.

Band 2 – mid range treatments eg fillings, extractions, and root canal work in addition to Band 1 work.

Band 3 – includes complex treatments eg crowns, dentures, and bridges in addition to Band 1 and Band 2 work.

Urgent – a specified set of treatments (including up to two extractions and one filling) provided to a patient where oral health is likely to deteriorate significantly, or the person is in severe pain because of their oral condition; or to prevent significant deterioration or address severe pain.

Other – Courses of Treatment which include the following procedures do not have a patient charge: arrest of bleeding, bridge repair, denture repair, removal of sutures and prescription issues

There can be significant differences between Courses of Treatment within the same band. For example, a Course of Treatment with several large fillings would have the same treatment band as one with a single small filling.

  1. Patients are split into three types according to age and exemption status: paying adults – pay a charge to the full cost of the treatment; non-paying adults – exempt or remitted from paying a charge to the full cost of the treatment; children. Paying adults are charged according to the treatment band.