Dental services in Wales will receive an extra £3m of new funding this year to support the recovery from the pandemic and improve access.
Next year NHS dentistry will be supported by recurrent funding of £2m, which will be targeted at general and community dental services.
It is hoped this funding, which is being made available to health boards, will help address local issues and improve access.
It comes after dental services have faced severe disruption during the pandemic, as a result of necessary public health measures to protect staff and patients - including infection control requirements, physical distancing, and enhanced PPE – which have meant fewer people can be ‘seen’ in a clinical session.
Dentistry has been severely impacted by the pandemic because most procedures are aerosol generating and dentistry professionals need to be in close proximity to the patient when providing care and treatment.
Progress has been made to restore services and priority is being given to people with the greatest clinical need - people who need urgent care and those who experienced problems during lockdown are being seen first.
Even with stricter measures in place to protect patients and staff, some 30,000 people are being seen in-person every week across Wales and a further 2,500 people are receiving advice and consultation or follow-up from their dental practices virtually.
However, there have been delays to access to routine appointments due to the enhanced safety measures needed.
Health Minister Eluned Morgan said:
There have been some long-standing issues with access to dentistry, due to some dental practices experiencing difficulties with recruitment and retention of dentists, and this impacting on the provision of NHS dental services.
We expect this funding to support health boards to tackle these issues and ensure the service is more resilient in years to come.
Dentists have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic and we are proud that services have continued for those who need treatment the most. Investing in emergency and urgent care will support these efforts and boost recovery of the services.
Warren Tolley, deputy Chief Dental Officer for Wales, said:
Dentistry has faced a number of challenges in recent months as we have adapted to living with the pandemic, but ensuring we have the infrastructure and support to maintain services will boost our recovery efforts and help us return to pre-pandemic levels of activity quicker.
This funding will support us not just in the short term but also in the long term as we aim to reform services and improve access to dental care.