Ed Davey, leader of the Liberal Democrats, has announced a plan to “end dental deserts,” including an emergency scheme to guarantee children and young mothers free dental checkups on the NHS.

The party's analysis shows that 4.5m children in England didn’t see an NHS dentist in 2023. Tooth decay is the most common reason for hospital admission in children aged between six and 10, with over 100,000 children admitted to hospitals with rotting teeth since 2018.

On a visit to Scotland, Ed Davey and Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton announced plans to reform dentistry across the UK.

The Liberal Democrats warned that parts of the country are turning into dental deserts with thousands of children and adults not seen by an NHS dentist. In Norfolk, 55 per cent of children had not seen an NHS dentist in the past year, or 101,675, the highest proportion in the country. In Gloucestershire and Surrey two thirds of adults had not seen an NHS dentist in the past two years.

The Liberal Democrats’ plan to end dental deserts would include introducing an emergency scheme to guarantee access to free NHS dental check-ups in England and Wales for those already eligible: children, young mothers, those who are pregnant and those on low incomes. The party also plans to bring dentists back to the NHS from the private sector by fixing the broken NHS dental contract and using flexible commissioning to meet patient needs.

In Scotland, the Scottish Liberal Democrats have announced its own plans to overhaul the SNP’s Recovery Plan.

Ed said, “It is a national scandal that children’s teeth are left to rot and people are forced to carry out their own dental work.

“It is time to end dental deserts after years of neglect by Conservative and SNP governments.

“In Westminster, the Conservative party has shown complete disregard for dental services, whilst the SNP record on the NHS continues to be shameful.

“Today, the Liberal Democrats are setting out a plan to bring back local NHS dentists across the UK, starting with ensuring free dental checkups for children and young mothers.”

Alex said, "People are resorting to DIY dentistry and buying tools off Amazon to do the job themselves because they can't get an NHS dentist. Some Ukrainians have even travelled back to Kyiv for dental care because the air raid sirens, drone strikes and cruise missiles are less daunting than the waits in Scotland's NHS.

"The SNP promised to scrap dental charges, but instead, they have introduced new charges and doubled the price of some procedures. Dentists are being driven away from the NHS because working with this SNP Government is harder than pulling teeth.

"No matter how much pain you are in, seeing an NHS dentist in Scotland is harder than ever before. It's a stark reminder of how the SNP make empty promises and can't get the basics right.

"People have had enough and the Scottish Liberal Democrats are on the side of everyone tired of SNP neglect."