Campaigners have welcomed a new ‘game changing’ Suffolk dental project to address the county’s tooth crisis, but warned the much-needed care could be years away and a more urgent solution was needed.

A new centre will be developed at the University of Suffolk’s Ipswich campus where dentists will be trained and provide treatment on the NHS.

The social dental enterprise is being established with the aim to attract and train newly-qualified dentists to work within the dental facility to supply additional, much-needed, NHS dental provision across Suffolk.

The development comes at a time when people are struggling to access care, even resorting to pulling out their own teeth and the campaign group Toothless in Suffolk has been formed to fight for better provision in the county.

Steve Marsling, co-coordinator of Toothless in Suffolk, called for action now, particularly the renegotiation of the NHS contract to give dentists more money for providing care.

He said: “First of all, any benefits that Suffolk will get are a good six years away because it takes a good five years to train a dentist.

“At present, there is absolutely no provision for keeping these dentists in Suffolk. What we would be asking for is for the Government to give some kind of grant or some kind of bursary if they sign up for five years with the NHS.

“Secondly, we would like Suffolk County Council to offer some kind of key worker scheme so dentists can be supported after they have finished their training and can build up their practices. Otherwise, they will slip away to private London practices.”

The 10-year project has the backing of Suffolk’s MPs, particularly Jo Churchill, MP for Bury St Edmunds.

Mr Marsling added: “While we welcome the new dental school, we need something much sooner.”

East Anglian Daily Times: Professor Helen Langston, vice chancellor of the University of SuffolkProfessor Helen Langston, vice chancellor of the University of Suffolk (Image: Archant)

Professor Helen Langton, vice-chancellor at the University of Suffolk, said: “This plan will be a game changer in terms of future dental health provision in Suffolk and East Anglia.

"The University of Suffolk, in partnership with the Integrated Care Board, our region’s MPs and NHS dentists, is determined to provide workforce solutions to the present oral health crisis.

“This will provide changes in the types of workforce and what the current workforce can do by offering a more modern training integrated with wider health care, hence we will offer a new model of dental care, a new model of organising care and a new model of workforce.”