ADULTS living in Cornwall who are looking to register with an NHS dentist would have to travel a staggering 200 miles for the closest practice taking on new patients.

The lack of NHS dentists is now becoming a growing problem around the rest of the country, despite being something the Duchy has experienced for years.

In the spirit of research, we decided to find out exactly how far you would have to travel in Cornwall to be able to get an NHS place as a new patient.

It turned out there is not a single practice in Cornwall taking on new NHS patients, and only a handful are prepared to take on NHS patients if referred by another dentist.

In fact, according to the NHS website dental finder, the nearest dental practice to Cornwall taking on NHS patients over the age of 18 is Portsmouth.

This means patients from Cornwall seeking an NHS dentist will have to travel approximately 228 miles, with a journey time of around four hours and 40 minutes from Falmouth, to the Portsmouth Dental Care practice just outside of Portsmouth - the closest practice listed with availability.

 A map showing the distance between Falmouth and the dental practice in Portsmouth A map showing the distance between Falmouth and the dental practice in Portsmouth (Image: Google Maps)

However, for anyone desperate enough the option is there.

A spokesperson for Portsmouth Dental Care told the Packet that the practice would be happy to accept patients from Cornwall if they were prepared to travel for treatment.

She said: “Yes, regardless of the distance and location, and if people are happy to travel, we would accept NHS patients from Cornwall.”

The situation is not much better if you're under the age of 17, although marginally closer.

The Clock Dental Surgery in Weymouth is currently accepting NHS patients under the age of 17 - a 'mere' 160 miles away.

This news comes following the Lib Dems previously warning that parts of England are becoming ‘dental deserts’ due to NHS dentist shortage forcing people to resort to ‘DIY dentistry’.

The Packet reported in April 2023 that Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey said his party was calling for an NHS dental healthcare plan to ensure every person can access affordable dental care. The proposals included spending what the party said was £400 million of NHS dental services funding that went unspent this year to boost the number of appointments.


At the time, Sir Ed said: “The staggering rise in dental deserts has left far too many people struggling to get an NHS dental appointment.

“It is heartbreaking that people are being left waiting in pain for months or even years for the dental care they need.

“Many are being forced to shell out thousands of pounds on private dental care, while some are even turning in desperation to DIY dentistry."


Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Falmouth and Truro, Jayne Kirkham has also previously spoken to people across Truro and Falmouth after she was selected as the Labour Parliamentary candidate in June 2022. The lack of access to NHS dentists for adults and children was an issue that came up regularly.

“NHS dentists are leaving, and the NHS Dental contract is broken and not fit for purpose,” she said. “The government is not tackling this and has been ignoring it for years, calling it a localised issue.

“The British Dental Association call it a national crisis, hitting millions of patients after a decade of underfunding and failed contracts.

“It is vital that the contracts and funding model are reformed as soon as possible to prevent more children ending up having urgent treatment in our Emergency Departments for sepsis because they could not access dental treatment when they needed it."

The crisis has also been recognised by some Conservative MPs.

In June last year Derek Thomas, MP for West cornwall, led a debate in Parliament about the crisis in NHS Dentistry. He told MPs about the shortcomings of NHS dental provision – especially in Cornwall – and demanded a new contract for NHS dentists.

Presenting the results of the dental survey he ran in his constituency, he said: “The picture that came out of my survey was shocking. Nearly half of the respondents had been waiting more than three years for an appointment.

“Many constituents don’t show up on the waiting lists, because they have given up on waiting.

“One constituent comes from a family of seven, of whom only the youngest has ever seen a dentist – and only then because he went to hospital for urgent surgery. The oldest is 20.”

At that time it was announced there was cross-party consensus that things needed to change, with agreement from the British Dental Association and a petition that gathered over 11,000 signatures.

However, more than 12 months on and it seems the crisis is only growing.