Publication of Family Practitioner Services General Dental Statistics for Northern Ireland 2020/21

Date published: 22 June 2021

The Health and Social Care’s Business Services Organisation (BSO) has today published its Family Practitioner Services General Dental Statistics for Northern Ireland 2020/21.   

The report contains high level summary information on activity and payments in relation to General Dental Services. Information is provided at NI level with further breakdowns presented at both Local Commissioning Group (LCG) and Local Government District (LGD) level.

The publication is available on the Business Services Organisation’s website.

Key Points

On 18 March 2020, general dental practitioners were informed to restrict the provision of aerosol generating procedures (AGPs). On 23 March 2020, they were instructed to cease all AGPs and routine dental treatments were postponed. From that date the provision of face-to-face treatment within general dental practice was restricted to urgent and emergency dental conditions that could not be managed remotely and in which a non-AGP could address the patient’s dental need. The rebuilding of dental services commenced in phases from 8 June 2020. From 20 July 2020, routine dental care could be offered and AGPs provided in general dental practice. The impact of COVID-19 restrictions on dental practices in turn has had an impact on General Dental Service (GDS) item of service (IoS) activity levels and the number of patients seen over the last financial year. As such individual contractors were provided financial support scheme (FSS) payments to stabilise their IoS payments in 2020/21. These additional support payments were made each month to cover the shortfall in GDS payments in 2020/21 for Item of Service Fees and Patient Contribution fees compared with payments made in 2019/20. Dental Practitioners were also with provided personal protective equipment (PPE) payments.

The key points from the 2020/21 report are:

Dental Services

  • In Northern Ireland, there were 368 dental practices with 1,142 dentists registered to carry out health service treatments at the end of March 2021. The number of dentists registered has increased by 19% over the last decade.
  • At Northern Ireland level, 94% of the population live within five miles of a Dental practice, with at least 88% of the population living within three miles in more urban LGDs.
  • The number of female dentists exceeds males, currently making up 57% of the workforce. In particular, the majority of new dentists are female, with 68% of dentists aged under 35 being female while the reverse is true in the older age groups with 66% of dentists aged 50 and above being male.
  • 65% of the population is registered with a health service dentist including 72% of children.
  • Fermanagh and Omagh LGD has a significantly lower proportion of the adult population registered (46%) compared to all other LGDs, however their rate of child registrations matches the regional average at 72%.
  • Females are more likely to be registered with a dentist (69% compared to 62% of males); this difference is particularly striking in the 18-44 age group with 74% of females registered compared to just 58% of males.
  • 194,000 Examinations were performed on adults, a drop of 78% on 2019/20 which can be explained by the impact of the pandemic and the restrictions placed on dental practices.
  • Just over 51,000 children received dental treatment in excess of the basic treatments, a fall of 57% on 2019/20 which is again attributable to the pandemic.
  • The number of children requiring fillings and extractions has decreased over the last 8 years - fillings have had a fall of 20% and extractions 13% between 2013/14 and 2019/20 followed by  much more significant reductions of 75% and 53% respectively in the most recent, pandemic affected, year.
  • There has been a 17% drop in the number of teeth filled in NI children per 100,000 population over the 5 years to 2019/20, the latest year for which comparative figures are available, however NI has consistently remained the highest of the 4 UK regions.
  • The Gross Cost of Dental Services was £131.7 million, with Covid-19 payments making up £51.9 million of this. Patient contributions fell from £26million in 2019/20 to £7.1million in the latest year.

Notes to editors: 

1. This is the second year that General Dental Services Statistics for Northern Ireland has been released as a standalone report.  This information was previously included as part of the FPS compendiums published in 2017/18 and 2018/19. This report was produced by the Health and Social Care’s Business Services Organisation (BSO) which was specified as an Official Statistics producer body under the Official Statistics Order (Northern Ireland) 2012. It provides the definitive source of figures on BSO FPS General Dental Services activity and finalises the provisional quarterly figures which have been released over the course of 2020/21.

2. Family Practitioner Services (FPS) is responsible for annual payments to primary care contractors including GP Practices, Dentists, Opticians and Community Pharmacists on behalf of the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB). In 20/21 this figure was in excess of £965 million, and included additional support to contractors related to the covid-19 pandemic.

3. The data relate to BSO’s General Dental Services payment and volumes claimed and have been sourced from administrative systems. It is important to note that, unless otherwise stated, figures relate to the year in which a payment claim was processed by BSO and this may not necessarily coincide with when the actual activity took place (i.e., some claims from a previous year may be processed in the current year whilst, conversely, some claims relating to activity in the current year may not be processed until a later year).

4. Primary care statistics on the number of dental practitioners are taken from lists of performers registered to provide these services. The lists maintained by BSO provide a headcount rather than full-time equivalent figures so takes no account of differences in hours worked or changes to practitioner working patterns over time.

5. Whilst a number of UK comparisons have been included in the report, there can be important differences in how services are delivered between countries that can impact on the figures. The relative size of the private sector in the delivery of primary care services within each country will be a particularly important factor in this regard so care needs to be taken when interpreting any inter-country differences in HSC activity levels.

6. The report itself presents high level summary information with all of the detailed data tables consigned to the accompanying Excel appendices. The figures are prepared and released by independent NISRA statisticians working within BSO’s FPS Information Unit.

7. Quarterly updates for 2021/22, for key report tables, will be released on a provisional basis on the FPS section of the BSO website. These will be added to the historic quarterly series. The timetable for the release of the quarterly updates will also be published on the BSO website and all publications, both quarterly and annual, will be formally announced on the UK.Gov release calendar.

8. Electronic copies of the Bulletin and associated Excel tables are available free of charge from the Business Services Organisation’s website.

9. This is an Official Statistics publication and therefore follows the Code of Practice for Statistics.  You can find further information about the Code of Practice at:

For further information please contact:
Information Unit
Family Practitioner Services
Business Services Organisation
2 Franklin Street
Belfast BT2 8DQ

10. For media enquiries please contact DoH Press Office by email:

11. Follow us on twitter @healthdpt.

12. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for media enquiries only between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

Share this page

Back to top