Plymouth has created 6,500 more NHS dental places since the start of 2012
AN EXTRA 6,500 NHS dental places have been created in Plymouth since the start of the year, MPs have heard at Westminster.
The improved access to care has been partly put down to graduates of the Peninsula school staying in the city after qualifying.
But Labour MP for Plymouth Moor View Alison Seabeck warned the cost of dental treatment remained an issue for many families, especially during the current recession.
Ms Seabeck also used a parliamentary debate she had secured into oral health services, to stress the importance of prevention.
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Check-ups could help in the early detection of a number of diseases, including cancers and diabetes.
And regular proper brushing could also help avoid costly uncomfortable treatment, she said.
Ms Seabeck also believed ion balance fluoridation of water was a "good thing".
Speaking in the Commons, Ms Seabeck said the economic cost of dental treatment in the UK was substantial and rising.
"Expenditure on treatment for oral diseases often exceeds that for other diseases, including cancer, heart disease, stroke and dementia, yet the simple fact is that the causes of most oral diseases in the UK are preventable through cost-effective measures that would ultimately save the taxpayer money, she said.
The Labour MP also highlighted the difference being made by the ground-breaking training provided at the Peninsula school, including community outreach work which took dentistry to "places it has never gone before".
On concerns about access to a dentist, Ms Seabeck said: "In Plymouth, we have good months and bad months.
"Since the start of 2012, however, improvements have been made, with an additional 6,500 NHS places coming on stream in our city.
"This is possible in part because the graduate dentists from the dental school are staying in the area – yet another reason why we so wanted a dental school in Plymouth. "
But she added: "There continues to be an issue about the cost of dental care and treatment for many families, particularly in the recession. That cost is still not easily accessible for some families."
Responding to the debate, Health Minister Dr Daniel Poulter accepted Ms Seabeck's invitation to visit the dental school.
He also moved to give assurances over changes to the running of the Peninsula dental school, which opened in 2007 as a joint venture between Plymouth and Exeter universities.
"Many of the changes were purely administrative, rather than to frontline services," said Dr Poulter.
He recognised more had to be done to improve access to dentists, but said "good strides" had been made both under the last Labour Government, and the current Tory-led Coalition.