One great advantage that many Londoners find of living in the capital is the availability of a huge range of resources and services, with the greatest choice of anywhere in the UK due to the metropolis’ sheer size and population density. Some people can therefore feel the need to ask: does London have more dental practices per person than anywhere else? And if it does, what does this mean for the availability of dentists, and what is the effect of this on waiting times and availability of high-quality dentistry?
Breaking down the numbers
To be exactly sure whether or not London has more dental practices that anywhere else in the UK is very tricky, as it involves juggling a mixture of statistics. The NHS numbers for 2007 show there were 3,841 London-based dentists contracted to the NHS, which, averaged for the population of London at the time, would have given London an average of 51 dentists per 100,000 people (according to London Assembly research), compared to the national average of 42 dentists per 100,000 people. This gives us a clear sign that London has traditionally had more dentists per person than anywhere else in the UK.
However, dentists and dental practices should not be treated exactly the same, and with Britain having 2500 private dental practices with no NHS contract it is very hard to get an exact number of dental practices in Britain, not least since many will be opening and closing every year. Overall, however, it is likely that the distribution of private dentists will be heavily slanted towards London over the rest of the country, pushing the number of dental practices per person slightly higher in the capital and its surrounding areas than elsewhere in the country.
While the number of dentists in the United Kingdom has fallen dramatically, from 51,000 in 2014 to 35000 in 2018, it is likely that these trends have continued. Indeed, the number of private dentists working in London has likely grown since 2007 with recent influxes of wealth into the city.
What does the higher rate of dental practices mean for you and your teeth?
The higher number of dental practices in London has not been accompanied by a straightforward increase in dental health outcomes. In fact, the London Assembly found that the number of Britons who had not visited the dentist in the past year was approximately half the population, and this number, despite the greater number of practices available, was even higher among the London population. Alarmingly, almost one in three adults have some degree of tooth decay, and the great majority of this group will not have a current, valid form of dental insurance.
The high number of dental surgeries in a city as crowded as London offers opportunities, both public and private. To avoid the longer waiting times and, depending on how you are able to balance cost and health, going private can provide peace of mind. It can also offer convenience and flexibility, for example meaning that if you live in Balham you can easily find a highly qualified dentist in Balham.