Dentists have come under fire for blocking trained support staff from offering basic care – effectively hindering attempts to ease the nightmarish backlog of NHS dental appointments.

The UK has 15,000 skilled dental hygienists and therapists, yet experts claim they are often barred from performing their duties by ‘protectionist’ dentists.

It comes as Government plans are set to allow foreign dentists to work in the UK without an examination on their qualifications to ease the patient logjam.

Miranda Steeples, president of the British Society of Dental Hygiene and Therapy, argued that inroads could rapidly be made into the backlog if these workers were better utilised. 

‘Our members could take on routine dental appointments, leaving dentists to tackle the complex issues such as extractions and fitting dentures, crowns and bridges,’ she said. 

Miranda Steeples, president of the British Society of Dental Hygiene and Therapy

Miranda Steeples, president of the British Society of Dental Hygiene and Therapy

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak talking to staff and patients during a visit to Gentle Dental practice in Newquay, Cornwall, earlier this month

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak talking to staff and patients during a visit to Gentle Dental practice in Newquay, Cornwall, earlier this month

‘But some dentists think we are second-rate and don’t trust us. This is absolute rubbish – it’s simply protectionism, which doesn’t help anyone.’ 

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak earlier this month unveiled the ‘recovery plan’ for NHS dentistry, including mobile check-up centres and wider coverage of fluoride in water supplies to protect against tooth decay.

But Ms Steeples wants the project to make better use of her staff.

She revealed she has previously quit jobs in practices after being reprimanded for doing fillings – a duty she is highly trained to perform.

Dental hygienists and therapists aren’t covered by the NHS gold-plated pension scheme, either, which offers guaranteed annual pay from retirement until death.

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