There were mixed reactions to the inclusion of dentistry in the NHS Long Term Plan launched yesterday by the Prime Minister.

The NHS claims its new Long Term Plan could help to save up to 500,000 lives over the next decade.

However, the British Dental Association (BDA) has expressed disappointment that, despite a heavily trailed focus on both primary care and prevention, the government has failed to outline a coherent strategy for dental services within its 136-page NHS 10 Year Plan.

Meanwhile, the inclusion of children’s oral health in the NHS Long Term Plan was welcomed by the British Society of Paediatric Dentistry (BSPD) that has been campaigning for oral health to be recognised as a marker for general wellbeing and a priority for prevention.

The Plan makes reference to supporting dental services via its Starting Well initiative, claiming it supports 24,000 dentists across England to 'see more children from a young age to form good oral health'.

The BDA suggests that in reality the programme is not receiving any new investment, and is active in a handful of wards in just 13 English local authorities.

The BSPD suggests that, although the Plan contains no chapter or even paragraph heading for oral health, the fact that it is mentioned in the context of holistic care for children represents significant progress, considering that it has been excluded from earlier strategies for the NHS.

The document states that local areas should design and implement models of care that will 'support health development by providing holistic care across local authority and NHS services, including primary care, community services, speech and language therapy, school nursing, oral health, acute and specialised services'.

References are also made to addressing oral health needs of care home residents and children with learning difficulties.

The PM launched her plan in Liverpool’s famed Alder Hey paediatric hospital.

The BDA also says the plan fails to address the NHS’s workforce issues, including the growing recruitment and retention crisis in the dentistry, 'fuelled by the discredited NHS dental contract'.

Claire Stevens, spokesperson for BSPD commented: 'It’s really good to see recognition for oral health in the NHS Long Term plan. I am delighted that there is a mention for Starting Well, the prevention programme launched in 2017 in high priority areas. We would like to see this extended into other areas where there are high levels of dental decay.'

But BDA chair Mick Armstrong cautioned: 'Warm words on prevention will ring hollow as the government fails to acknowledge the challenges facing 24,000 NHS dentists.

'The Prime Minister launched her strategy at a paediatric hospital, serving a city that spends £1 million a year extracting rotten teeth from children. We have faced year on year cuts, a recruitment and retention crisis, and have patients travelling over 50 miles to secure access to basic services. Now a single unfunded scheme is being offered as a substitute for proper resources and a coherent plan.

'If government really intends to put the mouth back in the body they need to work with this profession on implementation. The alternative is to keep treating dentistry as an afterthought, and let the NHS pay the price.'