Desperate patients resort to pulling out their own TEETH and making homemade ones out of resin and superglue as NHS dental crisis reaches ‘tipping point’
- Survey of 7,000 NHS dental practices found 90% couldn’t accept new patients
- Comes as Britons resort to ‘DIY dentistry’ or flying overseas due to UK wait lists
- Wales was the worst performer with 93% of practices unable to take on patients
- Additionally, about 17% of patients faced a wait of a year or more to join a dentist
- In total, a third of the UK had no access to a NHS dentist able to take on patients
- British dentists say Government must offer support or more patients will suffer
Britain’s dental crisis has reached a ‘tipping point’ with desperate patients resorting to performing surgery on themselves, health bosses have warned.
A new survey found nine in 10 practices are refusing new patients. Those who are accepted are faced with waits of up to five years to get registered.
People are increasingly turning to ‘DIY dentistry’ because they are unable to get an appointment, the national director of Healthwatch England said.
It is ‘not unusual’ to hear stories of patients pulling out their own teeth or crafting artificial ones and sticking them in using superglue, the watchdog added.
Millions of Britons are without a dentist after thousands quit the NHS during the pandemic.
Some regions in England are far worse than others for access to NHS dentistry. It is poorest in the North West, South West and Yorkshire and the Humber where 98 per cent of practices won’ accept new patients. This was followed by the East Midlands with 97 per cent, the South East with 95 per cent, the East of England with 93 per cent, and the West Midlands with 84 per cent. London was the best performer for NHS dental care, but even in the nation’s capital over three quarters (76 per cent) of practices were not accepting new patients
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
The survey of nearly 7,000 NHS dental practices across the UK found 91 per cent are unable to adult accept adult patients.
The poll, by the British Dental Association (BDA) and BBC, also found around eight in 10 practices were not accepting child patients.
Healthwatch England’s national director Louise Ansari told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the situation was ‘dire’.
‘So many people can’t get an NHS dentist appointment, they’re in pain, they’re anxious, some people can’t eat or speak properly,’ she said.
‘And suddenly, indeed, it’s not unusual for us to hear stories of DIY dentistry, things like making teeth out of resin and sticking them in to their gums with superglue, which is an absolute desperate situation for somebody to be in.’
Asked if she had heard of people pulling out their own teeth, Ms Ansari added: ‘Yes, absolutely.’
BDA officials said NHS dentistry is now at a ‘tipping point’.
According to the UK-wide survey, 90 per of the nation’s NHS dental practices were not accepting new adult patients.
There are 3 NHS charge bands:
Band 1: £23.80
Covers an examination, diagnosis and advice. If necessary, it also includes X-rays, a scale and polish, and planning for further treatment.
Band 2: £65.20
Covers all treatment included in Band 1, plus additional treatment, such as fillings, root canal treatment and removing teeth (extractions).
Band 3: £282.80
Covers all treatment included in Bands 1 and 2, plus more complex procedures, such as crowns, dentures and bridges.
For comparison, check-ups can cost between £20 and £120 at private dentists, according to Which?.
Dentures and bridges can also cost up to £2,520, the consumer watchdog says.
Wales was the worst for NHS dental access in the UK, with 93 per cent of its practices unable to accept new patients.
This was followed by England where 91 per cent of 5,416 practices did not accept new patients, with Northern Ireland next with 90 per cent, and Scotland performing the best with only 82 per cent of practices not accepting patients.
By English region, NHS dental access was poorest in the North West, South West and Yorkshire and the Humber where 98 per cent of practices had no capacity for new patients.
This was followed by the East Midlands with 97 per cent, the South East with 95 per cent, the East of England with 93 per cent, and the West Midlands with 84 per cent.
London was the best performer for accessing NHS dental care, but even in the nation’s capital over three quarters (76 per cent) of practices were not accepting new patients.
Of the NHS practices not taking on patients in the UK, about one in six (17 per cent) said their waiting lists to become a patient were at least a year or more.
Patients at one practice in Cornwall have been told they face five-year waits.
The survey also found no NHS dentist practice was accepting any new patients in just over a third (35 per cent) of the nation’s 217 local authorities.
The situation was equally dire for children in England, with only 79 per cent of NHS practices not accepting new child patients.
The BDA’s general dental practice committee chairman, Shawn Charlwood, said: ‘NHS dentistry is at a tipping point, with millions unable to get the care they need and more dentists leaving with every day that passes,’ he said.
‘We’re seeing the results of years of chronic neglect, set into overdrive by the pressures of the pandemic. The question now is will ministers step up before it’s too late?
‘Without real reform and fair funding NHS dentistry will die, and our patients will pay the price.’
Patients across the UK are struggling to access NHS dentistry with 93 per cent of practices in Wales, 91 per cent in England, 90 per cent in Northern Ireland and 82 per cent in Scotland not accepting new adult patients
Turky Teeth: ‘Mislead millennials are signing up for a lifetime of unnecessary and painful treatments’
Experts at the Harley Street Smile Clinic in London say they have been inundated with young people who are seeking remedial work after taking part in dental tourism.
In an alarming blog post, the clinic says mislead millennials are committing to ‘a lifetime of unnecessary, expensive and painful treatments’.
It adds: ‘Our clinic has been inundated over the last couple of years with young people who have been misled by bargain cosmetic dental centres in Turkey.
‘Having been left with the harsh reality of a lifetime of dental work, costing far beyond the cost of having veneers done in the UK, often our clients have no idea what work they’ve actually had done, or what’s involved in rectifying the issue.
Dr Maurice Johannes, Principle Dentist at Harley Street Smile Clinic, added: ‘I can’t stress enough that people need to be 100% clear about exactly what they are signing up for when they go abroad for cosmetic dental treatment.
‘Although patients are under the impression they are having veneers, in reality they are having crowns placed, which means much more aggressive tooth reduction.’
Source: The Harley Street Smile Clinic
The BDA previously said some 3,000 dentists have moved away from NHS work entirely since March 2020.
And a poll of 2,200 high street dentists in England found that 45 per cent have reduced their NHS commitment since the start of the pandemic.
They also found that 75 per cent are ‘likely’ to reduce, or further reduce, their NHS commitment in the next 12 months.
Responding to the survey, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said the Government was already acting to support NHS dentistry.
‘The NHS commits around £3 billion to dentistry each year and have made an extra £50 million to help bust the Covid backlogs, building on the unprecedented £1.7 billion support we provided during the pandemic, to protect teams and patients by paying dental practices for the work they would normally have carried out if it were not for Covid regulations,’ they said.
Last month health chiefs unveiled a plan for healthy NHS dentistry patients to only see a dentist every two years for a check up to help ease appointment waiting times and care backlogs.
In another move designed to ease pressure on dentists, dental therapists will also be allowed to carry out fillings, crowns, and a range of treatments.
NHS dentistry has been in crisis for many years. Many dental surgeries say it is no longer financially viable to offer NHS procedures, leading to an ‘exodus’ of dentists into the private sector.
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.
Official health service data, which records the number of adults seen by NHS dentists in 24 month periods, shows only 15.8million English adults saw a dentist between December 2019 and the end of 2021.
This is 6million less than the same period between December 2017 and end of 2019.
Additionally the NHS now has the smallest dentist workforce in a decade, with each dentist having a caseload of about 2,000 patients.
The situation has led to some desperate patients resorting to risky at-home procedures — including pulling out their own teeth with pliers.
Others have flew 6,000 miles to Brazil to be seen.
The BBC and BDA survey was carried out between May and July with researchers contacting 6,880 dental practices offering NHS services.
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