Dental services in Ayrshire are seeing some improvements, despite some major challenges remaining.

Overall there has been an increase in the number of General Dental Practitioners (GDPs) who are accepting new registrations although there are still waiting lists, North Ayrshire's Integration Joint Board (IJB) heard last week.

They were told that while services remains at risk due to workforce availability and financial sustainability, the Dental Management Team have not noticed any significant shift in demand or increased risk since last August

And they heard the Public Dental Service (PDS) continues to be a safety net service for those patients who cannot access their own dentist in an emergency, or are not registered.

Representatives from the management team, Public Health, Area Dental Professional Committee and clinicians across the service have working since December to consider the future service model.

Six of the 28 GDPs listed with the health board committed to providing NHS care within North Ayrshire are accepting new NHS registrations. Four of these are accepting both NHS adults and children with two practices only accepting children. This is an improvement from four practices reported last August, the board heard.

The service also continues to prioritise prevention and oral health improvement to reduce the possible burden of dental disease and mitigate the impact of reduced dental access. 

The Dental Management Team have developed a comprehensive risk and resilience plan with early warning triggers to identify areas which may be at risk of reduces services

The plan also sets out the steps that would be taken should a practice seek to de-register patients.

This includes how the PDS services would restructure their service provision to maintain sustainable services as well as support wider access to emergency dental care if required. 

The Public Dental Service runs from Monday to Friday with emergency appointment slots available as a safety net for practices who are unable to offer emergency appointments.

On average, between 127 and 147 patients are seen per month with the majority of attendances being non-registered patients. 

IJB chair Margaret Johnson said: “I am pleased to see there has been an increase in General Dental Practitioners accepting new registrations following on from the report in August.

"We seem to be going in the right direction.”