Dentist practices across Scotland may be just weeks away from collapse without rapid government support, the British Dental Association (BDA) has warned.
More than two-thirds of Scottish dental practices (68%) said they can survive a maximum of three months amid the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
A quarter of practices have applied for support loans from the Government, but 86% said they were turned down.
Of the rejected applicants, 30% have reported seeking commercial loans instead, with reported interest rates of over 20%.
A total of 2,860 dental practices – almost a quarter of the estimated 11,800 across the UK – responded to the survey by the BDA, including 186 in Scotland.
With all routine dental care now suspended, the BDA is warning that large parts of Scotland’s dental service are at risk of imminent collapse without further urgent steps to support businesses.
The Scottish Government has said it will be paying NHS dental practices 80% of their average income from NHS fees and patient charges.
However, the BDA says that private sector work carried out by most practices effectively subsidises NHS dentistry and if practices dependent on private business collapse the system would not be able to cope with demand.
BDA chairman Mick Armstrong said: “Practices across Scotland are now weeks from a cliff edge, saddling themselves with debt they may never be able to repay.
“It was right to suspend all non-urgent care, but without meaningful support the nation’s dental services face decimation, and no practice can be excluded.
“Dentistry cannot weather this storm when nearly every surgery relies on private care to stay afloat.
“If officials let these vital services go to the wall the impact will be felt by patients in every community in Scotland.”
A Government spokeswoman said: “The Scottish Government has listened to the concerns of dentists and has put in place new measures to ensure the financial sustainability of NHS dental practices during this difficult and uncertain period.
“NHS dental practices will receive 80% of the average income from NHS fees paid to dentists and patient contributions.
“This is a considerable enhancement on what was previously announced and provides additional financial security.
“Being in receipt of NHS support is not a bar to mixed NHS/private practices seeking additional business funding support for their private income.”