By JOHN ELY
One in five Britons are resorting to ‘DIY dentistry’ due to a drought of NHS dental appointments, a shocking poll suggests.
Some of the methods desperate people have resorted to include pulling blackened teeth out with pliers, to making homemade false teeth with resin and superglue.
It is the latest sign of the ongoing NHS dental crisis in the UK, which has left people no choice but to pay huge private fees or go without.
The Liberal Democrat-commissioned poll found about quarter of Britons had failed to get an appointment with their local NHS dentist in the past year.
Of these, 21 per cent resorted to DIY dentistry. Almost one in three gave up seeking NHS dental care altogether.
The Lib Dems called the result a ‘national scandal’ and are calling on Government to introduce an NHS winter rescue package, including plans to recruit more dentists.
Responding to the poll, the British Dental Association (BDA) said ministers must offer more support to stop the ‘horror show’ of ‘Victorian era’ DIY dentistry.
The findings follow official NHS data last month, which showed two-thirds of English adults have not seen an NHS dentist since the early days of Covid.
NHS dentistry has been in crisis for many years, but the situation has worsened since Britain emerged from the pandemic.
There are increasing reports of Britons resorting to DIY dentistry as they struggle to see an NHS dentists and can’t afford to pay private fees
Thousands of NHS dentists quit during Covid and industry polls suggest even more are considering going fully private in the near future.
Dentists argue it is no longer financially viable to offer NHS procedures because of a lack of Government investment.
As a result dental deserts are now emerging in parts of the UK, with a recent analysis finding 9 out of 10 NHS dentists are refusing to take on new patients.
The Lib Dem poll of 2,234 people, conducted last month, found those in London and the South West were the most likely to report failing to get an NHS appointment in 12 months at 28 per cent.
Results for Scotland and Wales revealed 25 and 22 per cent of people, respectively, failed to see an NHS dentist over the past year.
Of the 533 Britons that didn’t, 21 per cent resorted to DIY dentistry — either taking matters into their own hands or asking a friend or family member to do it for them.
Another 27 per cent paid for private dental treatment, and 26 per cent claimed they delayed seeing a dentists whist suffering with pain.
Lib Dem Health spokesperson Daisy Cooper said Britons being forced to pull out their own teeth was a ‘national scandal’ created by Government mismanagement.
‘This heartbreaking rise in DIY dentistry is further evidence that this Government simply doesn’t care about our vital local health services,’ she said.
‘It is a national scandal that people are forced to pull their own teeth out because our public health services have been starved of funding.
‘NHS services are crumbling after years of failure and mismanagement by Conservative Ministers.’
The Lib Dems are calling for the Government to announce an NHS winter rescue package this week now that Parliament is returning following The Queen’s funeral.
This should include plans to recruit more NHS staff, including dentists, they said.
Responding to the poll, the BDA said DIY dentistry had gone from being a local issue in spots were access to NHS dentists was dire pre-Covid to a national problem.
BDA chair Eddie Crouch said millions of Britons were being forced to take their oral health into their own hands by Government inaction.
‘DIY dentistry has no place in a wealthy, 21st century nation, but today millions have no options, and some are taking matters into their own hands,’ he said.
‘These access problems are not inevitable. This horror show is the direct result of choices made in Westminster.’
In January, the Government pledged an extra £50million to fund 350,000 more dental appointments, yet this has so far had little effect on boosting access.
Mr Crouch said ministers needed to deliver more reform and funding, estimating it would cost £880million a year alone to restore services to 2010 levels.
Official health service data, which records the number of adults seen by NHS dentists in 24 month periods shows the drastic decline in the number of people seeing a dentist since the pandemic. While people struggled to access NHS dentistry services before Covid due to a lack of appointments, the situation has deteriorated further with 6million fewer people seen compared to pre-pandemic levels
Millions of people have been left without access to dental care after the number of NHS dentists fell to their lowest level ever last year
‘We’ve heard promises of change, but any progress requires action on a decade of underfunding and failed contracts,’ he said.
‘Truss, Coffey and Kwarteng will determine whether we consign these scenes back to the Victorian era.’
Newly appointed Health Secretary Therese Coffey famously listed dentists as one of her four priorities when she stepped into the role earlier this month
‘We have got priorities A, B, C and D — ambulances, backlogs, care, doctors and dentists,’ she said.
Data shows NHS now has the smallest dentist workforce in a decade, with 3,000 dentists having moved away from NHS work entirely since March 2020.
And more could jump ship with a BDA a poll of 2,200 high street dentists in England earlier this year finding a third plan to go fully private within the next year.
It’s not uncommon for Britons to have to call up to 40 practices to find an NHS dentist in their area taking on new patients.
The situation has led to patient organisations like Healthwatch England say reports of DIY dentistry are becoming increasingly common with incidents where people have pulled out their own teeth out and made replacements out of resin and superglue.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said the Government was committed to improving access to NHS dentists.
‘The number of dentists practicing in the NHS increased by over 500 last year, and we are continuing work to improve access to dental care for all NHS patients – backed by more than £3 billion annually,’ they said.
- The headline from an earlier version of this article stated that a poll suggested 20% of Britons had resorted to ‘DIY dentistry’ due to being unable to get an appointment with their dentist. The headline has been amended to clarify that this figure in fact reflects the percentage of respondents who resorted to DIY dentistry after having failed to get an NHS dentist appointment. The overall percentage of respondents who had resorted to this was around 5%, which the headline now reflects.
Danielle Watts, 42, from Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, became so desperate waiting six years to be registered with a dentist that she pulled almost half of her teeth out with her fingers.
The mother-of-two had been suffering severe gum disease for many of those years.
She said she squeezed her teeth out after they ‘started dying off one by one’ last year because none of the dental practices in her four neighbouring towns were taking on new patients.
Ms Watts had tried to find another dentist who was willing to take on her and her two children Oscar, 12, and Eliza, eight, after her NHS practice suddenly closed down in 2015.
Despite her desperate calls to dentists over the years, she said none were willing to take on new NHS patients and she was forced to undertake dental treatment herself.
Speaking in October last year, Ms Watts, who works in packing for a printing company, said: ‘I am in constant pain and feel so disheartened because there is just no help out there.
‘I have had really bad gum disease over the last couple of years and my teeth have started dying off one by one.
‘It has got to the point where I squeeze them and they just pop out. I have lost 11 so far [now 13] and I think I am going to lose them all at this rate.
‘I have been trying so hard to find an NHS dentist, but there is just nobody out there. It is awful really, but there is nothing I can do.’
Ms Watts said she was now forced take painkillers every day, and that her situation had shattered her self-confidence.
‘I live with this every day. I take painkillers, I go to work, I look after my kids and I deal with shutting my smiles down. I hate talking to people, even people I know,’ she said.
Danielle Watts, 42, (Pictured) was forced to remove 11 of her teeth following excruciating gum disease after her dental practice closed in 2015 – but she struggled to find another to take her on
Meanwhile, Carlton Hill, 28, from Swansea, Wales, had to rip out parts of his back molar with pliers in 2020 after a crown shattered, leaving just an exposed root behind.
He couldn’t get an appointment because of pandemic delays.
Mr Hill, was left unable to have a chipped molar fixed by a dentist because of the Covid pandemic in 2020.
He had the molar temporarily fixed and was told to get full surgery at a later date, but could not find one anywhere in Swansea county.
Mr Hill told Metro at the time: ‘Within a couple of months, the crown of that molar shattered completely, leaving just the root behind.
‘I had to rip bits of tooth off my gums using pliers, but the nerves died off after that so the pain wasn’t too bad.
‘When I called NHS direct again seeking urgent help, I was told that the pain wasn’t severe enough for a referral to an emergency dentist, because all they could do for me was ease the pain rather than extract the roots.’
He has since had to drain pus out of abscesses in his gums and even used a wireless tool to shave down another molar that cracked, leaving a sharp jagged edge that was cutting his tongue.