More than a quarter of British seniors fear having to use pliers and do DIY dentistry due to a lack of appointments on the NHS.
From pulling teeth with household tools to making homemade false teeth with super glue and resin, a growing number seem to be taking charge of their dental health.
The trend is due, at least in part, to a shortage of NHS dentists, which has turned some parts of the country into dental deserts and left Britons faced with the choice of paying privately, foregoing them or resorting to the DIY dentistry.
Now a survey has revealed that one in four over the age of 65 would do their own dental work, including tooth extractions. The country’s top dentist said it is the result of the sector being “broken” and “underfunded”.
Overall, 41 per cent of Britons said they would be willing to do DIY dentistry if they needed dental treatment but couldn’t due to a lack of NHS appointments. The rates were highest among the youngest Britons (48 per cent) compared to 28 per cent of the elderly.
London recorded the lowest percentage of adults to have seen an NHS dentist in two years. The North East and Yorkshire had the highest rate at 41.8%
There are increasing reports of Brits turning to DIY dentistry as they struggle to see an NHS dentist and are unable to afford private fees.
The number of adults seeing a dentist in England over a two-year period has fallen dramatically 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 its lowest level last year.
How much does NHS dentistry cost?
There are 3 NHS charging bands:
Band 1: £23.80
Covers an exam, diagnosis, and counseling. If necessary, it also includes x-rays, a scale and polish, and planning for further treatment.
Band 2: £65.20
Covers all treatments included in Band 1, plus additional treatments such as fillings, root canals, and tooth extraction (extractions).
Band 3: £282.80
Covers all treatments included in Bands 1 and 2, plus more complex procedures such as crowns, dentures, and bridges.
For comparison, checkups 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 do DIY dentistry if they needed dental treatment but couldn’t due to a lack of NHS appointments.
Rates were highest among younger people, with 48 percent of people aged 18 to 34 preparing to undergo treatment on their own.
This was followed by 46 percent of people aged 35 to 54, according to the poll of just over 2,000 people, commissioned by the Liberal Democrats.
Older Britons, aged 65 and over, were the least likely to take matters into their own hands (28 per cent).
Across all groups, seven out of 10 participants feared being forced to go for private dental treatment.
And parents with children under 18 said they would “probably” resort to home dentistry if they needed medical attention.
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 surveys suggest even more are considering going completely private.
Dentists argue that it is no longer financially viable to offer NHS procedures due to a lack of investment from the government over the years.
The British Dental Association (BDA) says more than 47 million NHS dental appointments have been missed in England alone since the lockdown in 2020.
Commenting on the survey, BDA President Eddie Crouch said The Telegraph: ‘DIY dentistry has no place in a wealthy 21st century nation. Unfortunately, the decisions made at Westminster have left millions without options.
“Demoralized dentists are walking away from a broken and underfunded system.”
Crouch said Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s promise to restore NHS dental services, which he made during the Conservative leadership race earlier this year, had not been fulfilled.
He added: “That slogan will ring hollow as long as desperate people find themselves reaching for pliers.”
Liberal Democrat health spokeswoman Daisy Cooper called the poll results “a national scandal”.
While the number of children in England seeing a dentist has recovered slightly from the Covid pandemic, less than half of them see a dentist at least once a year.
Some regions of England are much worse than others for accessing NHS dentistry. It is poorest in the North West, South West and Yorkshire and the Humber, where 98 per cent of practices are not taking 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 performed best for NHS dental care, but even in the nation’s capital, more than three-quarters (76 per cent) of practices were not accepting new patients.
“It now appears that NHS dentistry is dying out in many parts of the country,” he said.
“Working people are paying their fair share to fund our precious NHS, but the government has not provided resources.”
A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said the government wanted to ensure that all people seeking dental care from the NHS can receive it when they need it and have recently implemented dental reforms to help deliver this.
It comes after a survey in September suggested a quarter of Britons have been unable to secure a dental appointment on the NHS, with the worst rates in London.
Of the total who were unable to get an appointment, one fifth turned to do-it-yourself dentistry.
Nearly one in three gave up seeking dental care on the NHS altogether.
The latest NHS data reveals that two-thirds of people in England have not seen a dentist in two years.
Only 16 million people had a checkup between June 2020, in the early days of the pandemic, and June 2022. The number 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 18 entitled to free dental care.
Adults must pay at least £23.80 for a basic checkup.
The data also shows that the NHS now has the smallest dental workforce in a decade, with 3,000 dentists having walked away from NHS work entirely since March 2020, with those remaining having a caseload of 2,000 patients each. one.
And more could jump in with a BDA survey of 2,200 street dentists in England earlier this year finding a third plan to go completely private within the next year.
Some Britons have reported calling 40 practices to find an NHS dentist in their area who sees new patients.
The situation has led patient organizations such as Healthwatch England to warn that do-it-yourself dentistry is becoming more common, with some people pulling their own teeth with pliers and then replacing them with resin and super glue.
Other Britons have chosen to fly abroad for dental treatment, where they are looking to pay far cheaper rates than private dentistry in the UK.
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