Almost a quarter of people have been unable to access care from an NHS dentist in the last year, with a number turning to “DIY dentistry” as a result, a new poll suggests.
Research, conducted on behalf of the Liberal Democrats, found that 23% of people said they have tried to access NHS dental care in the last 12 months but have been unable to get an appointment.
Just over a third (36%) said they got an appointment and 40% said they hadn’t tried, according to the survey of 2,234 UK adults.
Among the 533 people who could not get an appointment, 21% said they had conducted “DIY dentistry”.
For some patients this could include using a filling kit from a pharmacy and in extreme cases some people have even claimed to have pulled out their own teeth.
Some 27% of this group said they paid for private care because of a lack of NHS access.
Daisy Cooper, health spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats, said: “It is now or never to save our NHS from a winter of crisis that will put patients at risk.
“This heart-breaking 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.”
Commenting on the poll, British Dental Association chairman Eddie Crouch said: “DIY dentistry has no place in a wealthy, 21st century nation but today millions have no options, and some are taking matters into their own hands.
“These access problems are not inevitable. This horror show is the direct result of choices made in Westminster.
“We’ve heard promises of change, but any progress requires action on a decade of underfunding and failed contracts.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “The Health and Social Care Secretary has set out her four priorities of A, B, C, D – ambulances, backlogs, care, doctors and dentists.
“The number of dentists practicing in the NHS increased by over 500 last year, and we are continuing work to improve access to dental care for all NHS patients – backed by more than £3 billion annually.”
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