More than a quarter of senior Brits fear they may have to reach for pliers and undertake DIY dentistry due to lack of NHS appointments.
From pulling out their own teeth with household tools to fashioning homemade false teeth with superglue and resin, a growing number seem to be taking their dental health into their own hands.
The trend is, at least in part, due to a shortage of NHS dentists, which has turned some parts of the country into dental deserts and left Britons facing a choice between paying private, going without, or resorting to DIY dentistry.
Now a poll has revealed that one in four of over-65s would carry out their own dental work, including tooth extractions. The country’s top dentist said it is a result of the sector being ‘broken’ and ‘underfunded’.
Overall, 41 per cent of Brits said they would be willing to undertake DIY dentistry if they needed dental treatment but couldn’t due to a lack of NHS appointments. Rates were highest amongst younger Brits (48 per cent) compared to 28 per cent of seniors
London recorded the lowest percentage of adults who have seen and NHS dentist in two years. The North East and Yorkshire recorded the highest rate at 41.8 per cent
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
The number of adults seeing a dentist in England over a two-year period has fallen sharply compared to pre-pandemic levels. Only a third have done so according to the latest NHS data
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
How much does NHS dentistry cost?
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.
Overall, 41 per cent of Britons said they would be willing to undertake DIY dentistry if they needed dental treatment but couldn’t due to a lack of NHS appointments.
Rates were highest amongst younger people, with 48 per cent of 18-34-year-olds prepared to undertake the treatment themselves
This was followed by 46 per cent of 35-to-54-year-olds, according to the poll of just over 2,000 people, commissioned by the Liberal Democrats.
Senior Britons, aged 65 and over, were the least likely to take matters into their own hands (28 per cent).
Across all groups, seven in 10 participants feared they would be forced to go private for dental treatment.
And parents with children aged under 18 said they would ‘likely’ turn to DIY dentistry if they needed medical care.
NHS dentistry has been in crisis for many years, but the situation has deteriorated since the nation emerged from the pandemic.
Thousands of NHS dentists quit during Covid and industry polling suggests even more are considering going fully private.
Dentists argue it is no longer financially viable to offer NHS procedures because of a lack of Government investment over the years.
The British Dental Association (BDA) says more than 47million NHS dental appointments have been lost in England alone since the lockdown in 2020.
Commenting on the poll, BDA chair Eddie Crouch told The Telegraph: ‘DIY dentistry has no place in a wealthy 21st century nation. Sadly, choices made in Westminster have left millions with no options.
‘Demoralised dentists are walking away from a broken underfunded system.’
Mr Crouch said a pledge from Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to restore NHS dental services, which he made during the Tory leadership race earlier this year, had not been realised.
He added: ‘That slogan will ring hollow as long as desperate people find themselves reaching for pliers.’
Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Daisy Cooper claimed the results of the poll were ‘a national scandal’.
While the number of children in England seeing a dentist has recovered slightly from the Covid pandemic, less than half of are seeing a dentists at least once a year
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
‘It now feels like NHS dentistry is becoming extinct in many parts of the country,’ she said.
‘Hard-working people are paying their fair share to fund our treasured NHS, yet the Government has failed to provide resources.’
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said the Government wanted to ensure that all people seeking NHS dental care can receive it when they need it and they had recently implemented dental reforms to help deliver this.
It comes after a survey in September suggested that a quarter of Brits haven’t been able to secure a NHS dental appointment, with rates worst in London.
Of the total unable to get an appointment a fifth resorted to DIY dentistry.
Almost one in three gave up seeking NHS dental care entirely.
The latest NHS data reveals that two-thirds of people in England haven’t seen a dentist in two years.
Just 16million people had a check-up between June 2020 — in the early days of the pandemic — and June 2022. The figure is five million fewer than expected.
And less than half of English children had a check-up in the year to June 2022, despite being under-18s being entitled to free dental care.
Adults must pay at least £23.80 for a basic check-up.
Data also 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, with those that are left having caseload of 2,000 patients each.
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.
Some Brits have reported calling 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 to warn that DIY dentistry is becoming more common with some people having pulled out their own teeth out with pliers and then making replacements out of resin and superglue.
Other Brits have opted to fly overseas for dental treatment where they seek to pay far cheaper rates than private dentistry in the UK.
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