The British Dental Association (BDA) in Northern Ireland has stated that dentists may be losing money on the majority of active NHS treatments they provide.
According to preliminary data, giving NHS patients fillings, crowns, and extractions can be expensive for dentists.
According to the Department of Health, it has increased allowances and expenses while also investing in dentists. .
Due to expenses, some dentists are going private.
Other dentists who still provide NHS services won't accept any new patients.
A BBC investigation in 2022 revealed that nine out of ten NHS dental practices in the UK were not taking on new adult patients for care under the health service.
Without action, patients in need will not receive crucial care, according to a warning from the BDA in Northern Ireland.
Government-set fees are paid to dental offices for each NHS patient treatment rendered.
However, the BDA NI claims that those fees are probably greater than what it costs to deliver the treatments, which means dentists are operating at a loss.
It has issued a warning that there may be no future for NHS dentistry in the absence of increased government funding.
The BDA's Northern Ireland Dental Practice Committee's chair, Ciara Gallagher, owns a dental office in Downpatrick, County Down.
"Everyone's talking about the cost of living crisis, but I'm going to talk about a cost of providing care crisis," she said in an interview with the BBC.
"Everything we use inside this building is now more expensive. The salaries of our employees have increased, as have the prices of heating and electricity.
"The increase in fees does not keep pace with the cost increases. The fees have increased a little bit, but we've reached a point where it costs more to provide care than what we are getting paid for it. ".
The majority of active treatments performed, according to data gathered from Dr. Gallagher's practice and five others, are loss-making, a pattern she claims is shared by dentists throughout Northern Ireland.
These numbers are merely estimates. The BDA is currently conducting a more extensive study at practices throughout the UK and Northern Ireland. .
According to the statistics, the government currently pays the dental office £19.47 for each single-tooth extraction a dentist performs under the NHS. However, based on these numbers, the dental practice typically loses £18.58 after paying the dentist and its own costs to perform the procedure.
Likewise, the government pays a dental office £11.18 to complete one amalgam filling with a single surface and the necessary anesthetic.
But based on these numbers, the practice will typically have lost £21.55 by the time that filling is done.
The government will pay a dental office £59.94 to perform a root canal on an incisor or canine tooth, but the office will incur a loss of £703.
Dr. Gallagher said, "I don't know how to even begin to describe the despair of dentists who can't provide care.".
"And let's talk about the patients who can't get the care they want or register their kids because the practices can't afford the losses that will result from doing so.
"NHS dentistry won't survive unless the funding covers the cost of providing care, which means that patients who most need it won't receive it. ".
The BDA disputes the Department of Health's assertion that the figures do not appear to include various allowances paid to dentists.
The department cited a £6.85 million investment that dentists received over the previous two years to help pay for new technologies and items like ventilation.
It also alluded to a fee increase implemented in response to the Covid pandemic.
A spokesperson continued, "While the department acknowledges the difficulties dental practices will face as a result of rising living expenses, the pressures facing the department's budget are also significant and unprecedented, necessitating the need to make difficult financial decisions to align funding with important priorities.