THE scale of the dentist crisis hitting Wales has been exposed after it was revealed there are no dental surgeries taking new NHS patients in its largest county.

The Welsh Conservatives sent a Freedom of Information request to Powys Teaching Health Board, asking for the number of dental practices in the area accepting adult and child NHS patients.

In both cases, the health board said practices are currently taking new patients off their own waiting lists, but there is no immediate access to any dental practice for adults.

There are 26 dental practices in the health board area, 20 of them being contracted GDS (General Dental Services) practices while six are health board-run community dental practices, two of which also offer GDS.

It comes after the Welsh Conservatives in March called for the Labour government in Cardiff Bay to drastically increase spending on NHS dentistry or risk “dental deserts” across Wales.

“It is really disappointing that none of the 26 dental surgeries in the county are taking on new, local patients,” said Montgomeryshire MS and shadow health minister Russell George.

“The new dental contract means that dentists are having to choose between old clients and new clients, with many dentists turning to private work. This is only making access to dental appointments worse.

“Sadly, I have had to raise this issue several times over the last few months, and nothing has changed.

“I am hearing more and more stories about people forced to shell out hundreds or thousands of pounds to go to a private dentists or, even, ripping out their own teeth, all a time when the cost-of-living is on the up.

“All too often, we are given excuses about the appalling lack of access to NHS dentistry in Wales and a lack of transparency is making it harder to tackle the problem – most health boards were incapable of providing this information which is a problem in itself.

“We should not forget that this comes at a time when 1-in-5 people in Wales are on an NHS waiting list, which does not include dentistry, and just goes to show the utter shambles the Labour government is presiding over. The minister should match devolved spending on dentistry now.”

James Evans, MS for Brecon and Radnorshire and shadow minister for Mid Wales, added: “It is sad to read that Mid Wales is a barren wasteland for dental services.

“Our region is often neglected by the Labour government and this is having devastating consequences. Due to Powys’ geography and populations patterns, people often have to travel other counties or into England to access many services.

“While this works for many, it is really disappointing that none of the 26 dental surgeries in the country are taking on new, local patients.”

A Powys Teaching Health Board spokesperson said: “Dental services are one of our key priorities, and one of the areas most affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We acknowledge that people are waiting to access services. The Powys NHS dental helpline is in place for those who do not have access to a dentist and have queries, concerns or require assistance in finding a dentist.

“Patients who contact the helpline – by calling 01686 252 808 – must either be registered with a Powys GP practice or live in Powys.

“The helpline cannot arrange emergency appointments, so anyone who has pain or facial swelling and does not have a dentist should call 111 for assistance.”