People from Scotland’s most deprived areas are less likely to have visited their NHS dentist in the past two years than their more affluent peers, new figures indicate.
The gap for both adults and children has trebled in the past decade and is now is the largest on record, according to NHS Scotland Information Service Division data.
Almost four-fifths (79.8%) in Scotland’s most deprived areas had seen their NHS dentist in the past two years, as of September 30 2018, compared to 89.2% in the most affluent areas.
For adults, 62.2% of those in the poorest areas had seen their dentist in the same period, compared to 72.7% of those in the most well-off neighbourhoods.
Gaps of nine and 10 percentage points for children and adults respectively have risen from from three percentage points in 2008.
This is despite adults living in the most deprived areas being more likely to be registered with an NHS dentist than those in more affluent areas, at 97.5% compared to 88.6%.
The registration figures for children were similar across all areas, at more than 90%.
Overall, 94.2% of people in Scotland (5.1 million) were registered with an NHS dentist as of September 30, 2018, almost double the number of patients since registrations started to rise in March 2007.
Robert Donald, the British Dental Association’s Scottish Council chairman, said: “Year-on-year, the Scottish Government has attempted to hide behind positive sounding registration numbers.
“But these figures are based on ‘lifetime registration’ and nothing can conceal the gap that’s now opened between rich and poor when it comes to attendance.
“The people missing out on appointments are precisely those we most need to see.
“Residents in Scotland’s most deprived communities are more than twice as likely to develop and die from oral cancer, and early detection is key.
“We’ve had enough of official press releases boasting about how many patients are getting onto our books.
“The priority has to be a plan to get hard to reach patients people into our chairs.”
The association states three times as many Scots die from oral cancer yearly as those who are killed in car crashes, and the estimated cost of the disease to NHS Scotland is £65 million.