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By Henry Zeffman
Chief political correspondent

The government is preparing to offer dentists cash incentives to take on NHS patients and send teams to schools to treat children’s teeth.

Ministers are planning to unveil a programme to improve access to NHS dentistry in England on Wednesday.

But the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) inadvertently sent details of their “dental recovery plan” to MPs of all parties this afternoon.

The email was then passed on to the BBC.

The DHSC has been approached for comment. It is unclear if the contents of the email will precisely match Wednesday’s announcement, although it is marked with tomorrow’s date.

The email touts a £200m investment in dentistry. This includes dentists being “supported to take on new NHS patients” through a “bonus” scheme.

There will be “golden hello” cash incentives for dentists to work in areas which are under-served. Up to 240 dentists will be offered £20,000 to stay and deliver NHS care for at least three years in parts of the country where there are the fewest dentists.

Under what is termed in the email the “smile for life” initiative, children of reception age will be encouraged to combat dental decay from an early age, with a specific programme for nurseries.

Mobile dental teams will travel to schools in so-called dental deserts, providing fluoride varnish treatments to more than 165,000 children.

It comes after Labour announced their own policy of supervised tooth-brushing for three to five year olds. The party has also previously said it would offer incentives for new dentists to work in areas with the greatest need.

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting told the BBC: “After 14 years of Conservative neglect, patients are desperately queuing around the block to see a dentist, literally pulling their own teeth out, and tooth decay is the number one reason for 6-10 year-olds being admitted to hospital.

“The Conservatives are only promising to do something about it now there’s an election coming. By adopting Labour’s proposals for recruitment and supervised toothbrushing, they are finally admitting that they are out of ideas of their own.”

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