NHS dentists will receive fairer payments for complex treatments under measures aimed at tackling a backlog in dental care.
The plans will incentivise practices to take on patients who require treatment the most, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said.
It comes amid warnings of “dental deserts” across the country, with people turning to DIY dentistry after being unable to access care.
Dentists previously received the same payments for all “band two” treatments, including fillings and tooth extractions, the DHSC said.
This meant a dentist would be paid the same for doing one filling as multiple fillings, regardless of the time taken, and may not have been able to afford to take on patients who needed more extensive treatment.
Practices must also now regularly update information on the NHS website so it reflects available services, in order to help patients locate practices taking on new patients and access the treatments they need quickly.
Health Minster Neil O’Brien said: “I am determined to make sure everybody seeking NHS dental care can receive it when they need it.
“Our new contract rewards dentists more fairly for taking on high-needs patients and delivering treatments to those who need it most.
“It will not solve all the problems overnight, but it will help improve access and ensure the system supports dentists and their teams.”
However, the British Dental Association (BDA) said the changes were “minor tweaks” that come with “no additional funding” and claimed they would “do little to arrest the exodus of dentists from the service or address the crisis in patient access”.
Shawn Charlwood, chair of the BDA’s General Dental Practice Committee, said: “Minsters have done little more than rearrange the deckchairs.
“These minor tweaks will not end the access crisis or give demoralised dentists any reason to stay in the NHS.
“It’s one thing to offer a shiny new website showing patients they can’t get an appointment.
“It’s quite another to put in place reform and funding so millions can get the care they need.”
Louise Ansari, national director of the Healthwatch England patient watchdog, said: “Thousands of people have spoken up about their struggles accessing an NHS dentist over the last few years, telling us about dental practices in many regions either closing down or not accepting new NHS patients.
“This announcement shows the power of their voices, with Government listening and taking action.
“Ultimately, we hope these combined measures will help to reduce long waiting times, the extended periods of pain many people suffer and prevent the extreme cases of DIY dentistry we have seen.”