The Daily Telegraph

DIY dentistry swells amid shortfall of appointmen­ts

- By Laura Donnelly

ONE in five people has turned to “DIY dentistry” because they cannot get an appointmen­t with a dentist, polling shows.

The research by the Liberal Democrats shows widespread shortages of dentists, with patients forced to take matters into their own hands.

A survey of 2,200 adults found almost one quarter – 533 people – tried and failed to secure appointmen­ts in the past 12 months, with the worst difficulti­es in London and the South East. Of those, 21 per cent carried out their own dental work or asked someone who is not a dentist to do so.

For some patients this meant using a temporary “filling kit” which is only supposed to be a short-term measure, while others have claimed to have pulled out their own teeth.

The poll found that 27 per cent of those who could not get an NHS appointmen­t paid to go private, while 20 per cent travelled long distances to see a dentist.

It follows warnings of “dental deserts” which have left whole counties without access to NHS tooth care.

Earlier this year, patients in Somerset said they were being left in agony and facing bills of more than £1,000, as they were driven into the private sector by the lack of check-ups and treatment.

Healthwatc­h England has said that patients are using metal nail files in an attempt to file down sharp edges, and buying “dental cement online to glue back missing teeth”.

Dentaid, a charity that provides care for those with nowhere else to go, has doubled the number of clinics it is running this year compared with last.

Organisati­ons that represent dentists are calling for reform of their pay contract, saying that working for the NHS does not reward workers sufficient­ly.

Daisy Cooper, the Lib Dems health spokesman, said: “It is now or never to save our NHS from a winter of crisis. This heartbreak­ing rise in DIY dentistry is further evidence that this Government simply doesn’t care about our vital local health services.

“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.

“It is one health crisis after another with this Conservati­ve Government.

“NHS services are crumbling after years of failure and mismanagem­ent.

“This has to be the week that ministers finally clean up their mess and set out a plan to get the people, beds and buildings that our health and social care services desperatel­y need and which the British public deserves.”

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