A lack of NHS dentists is forcing people to pull their own teeth out, as half of practices will not accept new patients.
The British Dental Association says there is an ’emerging crisis’ in the NHS as patients are turned away and forced to pay privately or go without dental check-ups.
An analysis of 2,500 dental surgeries on the NHS Choices website found 48 per cent had closed their lists to new adult NHS patients, while two-fifths were refusing to accept children as new patients.
The statistics were reported by the BBC, which spoke to a couple claiming to have pulled their own teeth out without an NHS dentist to turn to.
Rebecca Brearey, from Dewsbury in West Yorkshire, said she had ‘begged’ to see a dentist after trying to find one for four years but was told there was a two-year waiting list.
NHS dentist shortage is forcing people to pull their teeth out, as half won’t accept new patients
ONE IN SEVEN TODDLERS HAS TOOTH DECAY – BECAUSE PARENTS ARE UNAWARE THEY NEED BRUSHING
One in seven toddlers has tooth decay, research revealed last month.
Some 14 per cent of three-year-olds have a decayed, missing or filled tooth, a study found.
Experts worry parents do not appreciate the importance of brushing their children’s teeth as they juggle the responsibility of raising a family.
Study author Maria Morgan from Cardiff University, said: ‘People don’t realise that you should start that early.
‘We are having some children at five, six or seven who are having five, six, seven, eight, nine teeth removed in one go.’
‘I ripped my half-rotten teeth out’
Ms Brearey said: ‘It’s got so bad that after taking a combination of paracetamol and alcohol I ripped my half-rotten teeth out.’
Nick Oldroyd said: ‘I was sat there for days in agony with a tooth which was doing my head in and stopping me from sleeping.
‘I was drinking to just try and just numb the pain so one night I just pulled it out.’
The latest figures from NHS Digital show just 51.4 per cent of adults in England saw an NHS dentist in the two years leading up to June 30.
More than 40 per cent of children had failed to get an NHS dental check-up in the previous 12 months.
Between January and April alone, health bosses advertised 11,155 vacant posts for dentists and doctors.
Henrik Overgaard-Nielsen, chair of general dental practice at the British Dental Association, said: ‘These figures are a stark reminder that government has no interest in getting more people attending an NHS dentist.’
He added: ‘Our patients are losing out because dentistry has been treated as a Cinderella service. Morale is at an all-time low, and many colleagues are now looking for the exit.
‘In place of indifference we urgently require a coherent strategy and real commitment from government.’
The British Dental Association says there is an ’emerging crisis’ in the NHS
‘I do feel let down by the NHS’
NHS England said 95 per cent of people seeking an appointment could get one.
However, Nazreen Akhtar, from Bradford in Yorkshire, also told the BBC it had taken five years to find a dentist in the city which would accept her two children.
She said: ‘My son Muhammad has been in a lot of pain – he’s had adult teeth growing over the tops of his milk teeth.
‘I do feel let down by the NHS as we should be able to see a local dentist.’
The issue is said to come partly from a controversial change in the dental contract in 2006, which replaced the ‘fill and drill’ culture with a quota system which saw dentists paid for ‘units of dental activity’ but paid no extra for taking on extra NHS patients.
Mr Overgaard-Nielsen said: ‘Many dentists would love to do more NHS work, but the contract imposed on them penalises them when they don’t hit quotas, and does not pay them when they do more. ‘Despite years of promises we are no closer to a decisive break from a model that puts government targets ahead of patient need.’
An NHS England survey found 93 per cent of 800,000 people were able to get an NHS dentist when they needed one, with two per cent unable to remember.
However, of the two-fifths who had not tried for an appointment in the past two years, one in eight said they did not think they could get an NHS dentist, while tooth decay remains the leading cause of hospital admissions for five to nine-year-olds.
Dentists argue the crisis is placing huge pressures on GP and A&E services.
An NHS England spokesperson said: ‘The latest NHS patient survey found that 95 per cent of people seeking a dental appointment were able to get one and the overall number of dentists offering NHS care is 3,800 higher than a decade ago.’