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Dentistry for all

Redhill Hospital, 1950sThe 20th century saw an explosion of new materials, techniques and technology along with a better understanding of dental disease and its prevention.

Access to dental treatment was limited at the beginning of the century. Approved societies provided dental treatment for their workers but not relatives or children.

Free and low cost treatment was available at voluntary dental hospitals.

There was also a failure among people to appreciate the importance of dental treatment.

William Beveridge in his report to the government in 1942 recorded that there was: "a need for a change of popular habit from aversion to visiting the dentist until pain compels, into a readiness to visit and be inspected periodically." Inevitably then dental disease was widespread.

NHS dental chargesThe introduction of the NHS in 1948 gave the British population free access to dental treatment.

There was a school dental service and a special priority service for expectant and nursing mothers, and young children that was organised by local authorities.

However there was such a demand for dentures, nicknamed the dash for dentures, that a far higher proportion of the budget was spent on this than anticipated.

Within the first nine months of the NHS 33 million artificial teeth had been supplied. 

The vast expense took the government by surprise and with such huge expenses charges for dentures were introduced in 1951 - the first item to be charged for under the NHS. 

Many technological developments have improved the practise of dentistry such as the introduction of the super-quick air turbine.

Today whilst many still have dental problems those with healthy teeth are encouraged to make the most of them with adult orthodontics and tooth whitening.