Association of Dental Groups warns that Labour’s manifesto does not going far enough to save UK dentistry

The Association of Dental Groups (ADG) has restated its campaign to ‘fill the gap’ in UK dentistry, as it warns that Labour’s ‘Change Manifesto,’ launched last week in Manchester, will not bring UK dentistry out of its state of crisis unless it tackles the shortage of skilled dental professionals.

Labour, which is broadly expected to resoundingly win the July 4th election has pledged a Dentistry Rescue Plan including:

  • 700,000 more urgent dental appointments
  • Recruit new dentists to areas that need them to the most
  • Reform the dental contract with a shift to focusing on prevention and the retention of NHS dentists
  • Introduce a supervised tooth-brushing scheme for 3- to 5-year-olds, targeted in areas with the highest needs


While the ADG welcomes Labour’s focus on dentistry, as chair Neil Carmichael explains “there are simply not enough dentists working in the UK to fulfil such a radical increase in in appointments, or ‘incentivise’ to areas of need.”

Per capita, the UK has the lowest number of dentists in Europe, with only Bulgaria and Poland having fewer dentists per 1,000 people.

This has had a devastating impact on patient care. Tooth decay is the most common reason why 6-10year olds are admitted to hospitals, and we have seen a rise in the incidence of ‘DIY dentistry’ amongst desperate people, sometimes on waiting lists for the dentist which extend years.

Increasing the numbers of places at dental schools is imperative, but this will not have a significant impact on the dental workforce until the early 2030s.

In the short term, the ADG is campaigning for it to become easier for highly qualified overseas dentists to obtain the papers to practise here. At present, the admission process for the ‘Overseas Registration Exam’ is characterised by huge delays and backlogs.

The ADG is urging the new Government to do everything at its disposal to encourage the General Dental Council to

  • Increase the frequency of part 1 and part 2 of the ORE
  • Deliver part 1 of the ORE online or in British Council offices overseas
  • Improve the processing time for new applicants wanting to take the ORE
  • Prioritise candidates who will work in the NHS and will most likely pass the ORE

Medium term, the ADG is also looking forward to working with the incoming Government on potential new mutual recognition schemes, with countries like India. India produces an excess of high-quality, English-speaking dentists, more than 300,000 every year, many of whom want to build their early careers in the UK.

As Carmichael explains “Labour wishes to reduce overall net migration but must make sure the UK remains open for high-skilled dentists who can boost our depleted workforce.

“Just 1,000 more dentists would create 750,000 more appointments, which would help the incoming government effectively deliver its ‘Dentistry Rescue Plan’ and deliver care for thousands of people in dire need.’