Facts & figures

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Dental workforce

The General Dental Council (GDC) has a register of all dental healthcare professionals. It produces monthly reports (https://www.gdc-uk.org/about-us/what-we-do/the-registers/registration-reports). In March 2021, there were:-

A total of 113,972 oral health professionals on the register. This number was comprised of 42022 dentists and 71,950 dental care professionals (DCPs): DCPs include dental therapists, dental hygienists, clinical dental technicians, dental nurses, dental technicians and orthodontic therapists. 

As well as numbers, the monthly reports include profiles of all registrants by age and gender. It shows that dentists are made up of fifty percent females and fifty per cent males. DCPs, despite many dental technicians being male, are made up of ninety three percent females.

You can search the GDC registers to make sure that the dental healthcare professionals you choose to treat you are fully competent and licensed to practice.

If you have any concerns or complaints about any dental health professional, you can contact the General Dental Council on their website (https://www.gdc-uk.org). This website has an online contact form which you are encouraged to use, or you my contact them by telephone on their general enquiries number: 020 7167 6000.

Training

Dentistry is one of the longest and most demanding university degree programmes. It lasts for five years, with each year lasting a minimum of forty weeks. 

When they qualify, dentists are competent in assessing, diagnosing and treating all common oral and dental conditions in patients of all ages. The programmes of training for dentists in the sixteen UK universities with undergraduate degree programmes are monitored and, from time to time, inspected for sufficiency by the General Dental Council.

The training of all dental care professionals (DCPs) is demanding also. As with the programmes of training for dentists, the programmes of training for DCPs are monitored and, from time to time, inspected for sufficiency by the General Dental Council.

The training and standards for qualification for dental healthcare professionals in the UK are comparable to those elsewhere in the world.

Dental Services 

Dental Services in primary care, are largely provided in general dental practices. Primary care can include health promotion, disease prevention, health maintenance, patient education and counselling in a variety of health care settings. A small proportion of dental care is also provided by the Salaried Dental Service in community settings. 

In these community settings, there is often a focus on the health of individuals who suffer oral health inequalities and have specific needs, or those in circumstances which affect their ability to access dental services. This could include individuals with mobility problems, residents in care homes, families with English as a second language and people with sensory or other disabilities. 

Specialist services are available in many dental practices and in secondary care. Secondary care includes hospital services, or a child development centre. In addition to the eighteen dental hospitals in the UK, many general hospitals have dental departments, typically linked to Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery units.  Referral from a primary care worker is needed to access secondary care. 

The work undertaken by dental health teams in every setting aims to improve general health, wellbeing and personal confidence, in addition to enhancing oral and dental health; these dental team recognise that when a persons teeth are looking good, this can contribute to their greater self-esteem, and improved emotional and mental health. 

Dental practices

In 2019, there were approximately 12,500 dental practices in the UK. 

Dental practices are privately owned and managed. However, most provide a mixture of public (NHS) and privately funded dental care. Information about a dental practice and the services it provides are typically included in a practice website.

Dental practices are from, time to time, inspected; for example, by the Care Quality Commission in England

Dental ‘market’

The dental market in the UK in 2018, was estimated to have a total value of over ten billion pounds (£10.1 bn). This is broken down as follows:

  • £3.9 bn of NHS funding across primary and secondary care
  • £6.2 bn from private care paid for directly by patients

Prior to the COVID pandemic, the dental market was projected to grow by an average of over four per cent every year, until 2022. This growth is thought to be driven in part by an ageing population. However, a growing interest in health, wellbeing and personal care has contributed to a greater demand for cosmetic and specialist treatments. 

It is envisaged that the dental market, in the wake of the COVID pandemic, will take at least two years to recover. 

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