2545 people were forced to attend A&E in the North East last year due to dental decay, as patients across the country find it impossible to get an appointment with an NHS dentist when they need one. 

In 2022/23,1985 patients were seen in A&E with a dental abscess caused by tooth decay, and 560 with dental caries. Across the country, 67,000 patients attended emergency departments with tooth decay. 

Numbers have not improved in the last year. Stats from 2021/22 are equally stark, with 2,370 trips to A&E due to dental complaints. 

These stats come as the region is impacted by an ongoing crisis, with the dental sector is still reeling from the pandemic. 

In Darlington alone, thousands are struggling to book appointments for both urgent and routine treatment. 

There are only 12 NHS dental practices in the town after Burgess + Hyder, which served hundreds of residents in Firthmoor, closed earlier this year. Health bosses are still unable to relocate all patients to new practices.

The executive director for the authority that commissions NHS dentists in the North East, David Gallagher, said that plans are to "protect, retain and stabilise" local dental services. 

But Durham City MP Mary Kelly Foy said that "Tories’ neglect of dentistry is funnelling patients into already overcrowded A&E departments".

Analysis of patient survey data suggests that 4.75 million people across England were denied an appointment with an NHS dentist in the past two years. Figures show millions of people were either told no appointments were available or that the practice they contacted was not taking on new patients.

The Northern Echo has previously reported on the "dental desert" in the region - with people having to resort to pulling their own teeth out as no NHS dentists were open to new patients. Read our special report here

A report from Middlesbrough council this week revealed "stark" North East oral health inequalities that linked the town's deprivation to high levels of tooth decay in five-year-olds. 

In Middlesbrough, 27.9 per cent of adults suffered more oral health impacts, compared to 22.6 per cent in the North-east and 17.7 per cent in England.

David Gallagher, executive area director for NHS North East and North Cumbria ICB, said: "Since the pandemic, dental services have faced massive challenges in meeting the increasing and more complex needs of our patients. The ICB have plans in place which aim to 'protect, retain and stabilise' local dental services, including access for patient with urgent dental care treatment needs.

"The ICB have made available £3.8 million to support dentistry during the 2023/24 financial year, with a focus on improving access for patients with the greatest clinical need. This includes offering additional funding to dental practices, to create up to 27,000 extra appointments across the North East and North Cumbria, as well as increase capacity within dedicated urgent care treatment services.

"The funding has also been used to increase the NHS 111 dental clinical triage workforce capacity to meet the increased NHS 111 dental call demand and better support patients with urgent dental care need into the most appropriate dental service.”

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Mary Kelly Foy, Member of Parliament for the City of Durham Said:
“These figures make clear that the Tories’ neglect of dentistry is funnelling patients into already overcrowded A&E departments.

“I worry that for every patient presenting in A&E with tooth decay that there are others resorting to Victorian DIY dentistry, all because our region is becoming a dentistry desert.

“It has never been clearer that we need a Labour government to stop the rot in NHS dentistry”.