HC Deb 12 December 1989 vol 163 cc832-3
5. Mr. French

To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many dentists are employed by the National Health Service now and in 1979.

Mr. Freeman

There were 15,300 dentists in the National Health Service in England in 1979, and just over 18,000 last year.

Mr. French

The whole House will welcome the excellent news about additional resources for dentistry. Will my hon. Friend confirm that that means that the teeth of the nation—particularly those of the nation's children—are receiving more attention and are consequently in better condition, and does he agree that that is a good reason for smiles all round?

Mr. Freeman

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, and I can confirm that, over the past 10 years, the teeth of the nation have been in far better shape. There has been a dramatic reduction in decay caused by dental caries in children under the age of 16—a fall of about 40 per cent. between 1973 and 1983—and a reduction in the number of adults with false teeth from about 30 per cent. in 1978 to about 20 per cent. in 1988.

Mr. Ron Brown

Does the Minister accept that people are not smiling so much in Scotland? Although it is not his responsibility, he will understand that Scots are angry about the closure of Edinburgh dental school. Will he have a word with his Scottish colleagues, and advise them to keep the school on? We need it: it is important to the health of Scotland's people.

Mr. Freeman

The hon. Gentleman should take a broader national view. The number of dentists that Britain will need over the next two decades will increase, but at present we are training too many.

Miss Emma Nicholson

As one who spent the morning at the dentist, I am not sure that I welcome extra money being spent on dentistry. Does my hon. Friend agree that the number of dentistry courses has increased dramatically over 10 years,—from 27 million to 32 million—which is a welcome sign that the expense of dentistry is clearly not putting people off having their teeth repaired?

Mr. Freeman

My hon. Friend is right. There are more courses, and people are going to the dentist more often. The use of fluoride toothpaste, particularly by children, has made a big difference to the health of their teeth.