Betsi Cadwaladr insist action is needed to address dentistry in North Wales after unions warn NHS dentistry is “hanging by a thread”.

The warning from the British Dental Association comes after 83 dental posts were lost in Wales during the last year.

The BDA’s Shawn Charlwood warned significant numbers of dentists were planning on leaving the NHS.

He said: “NHS dentistry is hanging by a thread, because without NHS dentists, there will be no NHS dentistry.

“It’s a really serious situation and every dentist that is lost or every vacancy for NHS dentistry that remains unfilled affects thousands of patients in terms of care and their ability to access care.

The worst-affected area in Wales was the Swansea Bay University Health Board, which had 22% fewer NHS dentists compared to the year before.

While Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board had an increase in dentists working in the area in 2021, with three more than the year before, there has been a 5 percent drop in dentist posts over the last three years, something that is concerning the health board.

Gill Harris, Executive Director of Integrated Clinical Delivery, said: “We are concerned about the number of dentists who are leaving the area and have been working with our independent contractors and the Local Dental Committee to address this over a number of years.

“Actions to address this have included funding post graduate courses for dental professionals and supporting their continued professional development. We have also recruited two dental clinical fellows to work in areas of high need.

“Work is ongoing with Heath Education and Improvement Wales, Welsh Government and Bangor University to establish a North Wales Dental Academy, which will play a key role in helping us recruit and retain staff in future.

“Throughout the Covid pandemic our dental team have worked closely to support practices and ensure continuity of provision. We are commissioning a number of innovative emergency, urgent and non-urgent sessions from practices.”

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “We are committed to meeting the needs of NHS dentistry patients in Wales through preventive care and increased access, supported by contract reform. This will see a gradual move away from using Units of Dental Activity targets.

“We are providing health boards with £3m in 2021-22 to boost access to NHS dental services, and £2m recurrently from 2022-23 to support increased provision.”