Scotland can be proud of its NHS dental services.
We have observed substantial improvements in the oral health of children, and in access to NHS dental services for patients.
There are now over 4.8 million people registered with a NHS dentist. This is reflected in the unprecedented growth in the numbers of NHS dentists, where we have seen an increase of around 30 per cent in the last eight years.
We can be especially proud of the excellent progress made in the oral health of children. This is a crucial area, as dental decay is almost always entirely preventable, and by ensuring good oral health in children, we help safeguard the oral health of the future adult population. We can happily report that the latest National Dental Inspection Programme (2015) showed that 75 per cent of children in Scotland at Primary 7 had 'no obvious decay experience', compared with 59 per cent in 2007. We have also seen similar progress amongst Primary 1 children.
Although the landscape in NHS dentistry and oral health has changed significantly for the better, it is important we continue to build on this success story. The First Minister's Programme for Government acknowledges the complex set of challenges around oral health inequalities, an ageing population and how we begin to shift the emphasis from restorative dentistry to a more preventive-focused approach. The spearhead of this approach has been the Childsmile Programme, which has made a significant contribution to the reduction in dental decay rates in children.
I want to ensure that the oral health of the nation continues to improve and that we take additional measures to improve the oral health of the most disadvantaged communities, and meet the challenge of an ageing population. Our NHS dental services in Scotland need to be more closely aligned to patients' needs, enabling the dental team to support the patient in improving and maintaining their oral health.
This consultation document focuses on important issues we have to address in the future. The publication of this document represents the start of our stakeholder engagement. We will be talking and listening to patients, the dental team, and other health professionals, as well as the wider NHS, in how we take dental services forward to meet the challenges of the future.
I would ask that everyone gets involved in this process and help us to shape the future of oral health care in Scotland.
Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport
Email: David Notman, email@example.com