Meet the desperate Brits forced to resort to DIY dentistry

Meet the victims of Britain’s NHS dental crisis: From a mother, 42, who pulled out 13 of her own TEETH after waiting six YEARS for check-up to a 28-year-old who fished out shards of shattered molar with pliers

  • Mother-of-two Danielle Watts from Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, pulled out more than a dozen of her own teeth 
  • Carlton Hill from Swansea, Wales, had to rip out parts of his back molar with pliers after the crown shattered 
  • Have YOU or someone you know had to resort to DIY dentistry? Email [email protected]

Desperate patients have been forced to take matters into their own hands amid an NHS dental crisis that has seen millions of Britons left without a dentist, including one who pulled out 13 of her own teeth out.

Health watchdogs today said dangerous DIY dentistry was becoming increasingly common as workforce numbers shrink to their lowest level ever after dentists quit in droves during the pandemic.

Danielle Watts, 42, from Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, became so desperate after waiting six years to be registered with a dentist that she pulled almost half of her teeth out with her fingers.

The mother-of-two had been suffering severe gum disease for many of those years. She squeezed her teeth out after they ‘started dying off one by one’ last year because none of the dental practices in her four neighbouring towns were taking on new patients.

New figures today revealed that 90 per cent of dental practices across the UK are no longer taking on new patients because of dwindling staff numbers and increased demand, leaving an estimated 4million people in England without one. 

Carlton Hill, 28, from Swansea, Wales, had to rip out parts of his back molar with pliers in 2020 after a crown shattered, leaving just an exposed root behind. He couldn’t get an appointment because of pandemic delays.

Others have found it cheaper to fly to the Czech Republic for basic dental cleaning rather than have to pay for private work in the UK.

The national director of Healthwatch England today revealed it was no longer ‘unusual’ to hear stories of patients taking matters into their own hands. 

It cited one example of a patient who made their own artificial teeth using resin and superglued them to their gums.

Danielle Watts, 42, (Pictured) was forced to remove 11 of her teeth following excruciating gum disease after her dental practice closed in 2015  – but she struggled to find another to take her on

Ms Watts was taking painkillers daily due to the ‘constant pain’ and despite looking for a new NHS dental practice for six years, she was forced to pull out her own teeth (Pictured) 

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.

The dental crisis is particularly bad in Suffolk, where Ms Watts lives. She tried to find another dentist who was willing to take on her and her two children Oscar, 12, and Eliza, eight, after her NHS practice suddenly closed down in 2015.

Despite her desperate calls to dentists over the years, she said none were willing to take on new NHS patients and she was forced to undertake the dental treatment herself. 

Speaking in October last year, Ms Watts, who works in packing for a printing company, said: ‘I am in constant pain and feel so disheartened because there is just no help out there.

‘I have had really bad gum disease over the last couple of years and my teeth have started dying off one by one.

‘It has got to the point where I squeeze them and they just pop out. I have lost 11 so far [now 13] and I think I am going to lose them all at this rate.

‘I have been trying so hard to find an NHS dentist, but there is just nobody out there. It is awful really, but there is nothing I can do.’ 

Now, Bury St Edmunds councillor Katie Parker is fundraising to have another eight of Ms Watts’s teeth removed so she can get dentures fitted.

Ms Watts said: ‘I live with this every day. I take painkillers, I go to work, I look after my kids and I deal with shutting my smiles down. I hate talking to people, even people I know.’

In Wales, Mr Hill, who lives in Gorseinon, Swansea, was left unable to have a chipped molar fixed by a dentist because of the Covid pandemic in 2020.

He had the molar temporarily fixed and was told to get full surgery at a later date, but could not find one anywhere in Swansea county.

Mr Hill told Metro at the time: ‘Within a couple of months, the crown of that molar shattered completely, leaving just the root behind.

‘I had to rip bits of tooth off my gums using pliers, but the nerves died off after that so the pain wasn’t too bad. 

‘When I called NHS direct again seeking urgent help, I was told that the pain wasn’t severe enough for a referral to an emergency dentist, because all they could do for me was ease the pain rather than extract the roots.’

He has since had to drain pus out of abscesses in his gums and even used a wireless tool to shave down another molar that cracked, leaving a sharp jagged edge that was cutting his tongue. 

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

Official health service data, which records the number of adults seen by NHS dentists in 24 month periods shows the drastic decline in the number of people seeing a dentist since the pandemic. While people struggled to access NHS dentistry services before Covid due to a lack of appointments, the situation has deteriorated further with 6million fewer people seen compared to pre-pandemic levels

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 

Turkey Teeth: ‘Mislead millennials are signing up for a lifetime of unnecessary and painful treatments’ 

Experts at the Harley Street Smile Clinic in London say they have been inundated with young people who are seeking remedial work after taking part in dental tourism.

In an alarming blog post, the clinic says mislead millennials are committing to ‘a lifetime of unnecessary, expensive and painful treatments’.

It adds: ‘Our clinic has been inundated over the last couple of years with young people who have been misled by bargain cosmetic dental centres in Turkey.

‘Having been left with the harsh reality of a lifetime of dental work, costing far beyond the cost of having veneers done in the UK, often our clients have no idea what work they’ve actually had done, or what’s involved in rectifying the issue.

Dr Maurice Johannes, Principle Dentist at Harley Street Smile Clinic, added: ‘I can’t stress enough that people need to be 100% clear about exactly what they are signing up for when they go abroad for cosmetic dental treatment. 

‘Although patients are under the impression they are having veneers, in reality they are having crowns placed, which means much more aggressive tooth reduction.’

 Source: The Harley Street Smile Clinic

Meanwhile, people in Lincolnshire, one of the worst affected regions in England, have complained of ‘nine-year waiting lists’ and ‘242-mile round trips’ because ‘it’s still cheaper than going private’.

English teacher Hana Rafajova, 42, who lives in Boston in the county, found it cheaper to go back to her home country for basic dental cleaning than to have it done privately in the UK.

‘I had my front-teeth bridge replaced five years ago and the price here would have been £3,000. In the Czech Republic it was £1,000,’ she told the Daily Mail. 

‘I went there specifically for that, and the return flights for me and my son were around £200, so it was much cheaper.’ 

Retired carer Natasha Waterfield, who lives in Horncastle in the same county, pulled out one of her own teeth with pliers after being left without treatment for 18 months.

It comes after the survey of nearly 7,000 NHS dental practices across the UK found 91 per cent are unable to adult accept adult patients. 

The poll, by the British Dental Association (BDA) and BBC, also found around eight in 10 practices were not accepting child patients.

Healthwatch England’s national director Louise Ansari told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the situation was ‘dire’.

‘So many people can’t get an NHS dentist appointment, they’re in pain, they’re anxious, some people can’t eat or speak properly,’ she said.

‘And suddenly, indeed, it’s not unusual for us to hear stories of DIY dentistry, things like making teeth out of resin and sticking them in to their gums with superglue, which is an absolute desperate situation for somebody to be in.’

Asked if she had heard of people pulling out their own teeth, Ms Ansari added: ‘Yes, absolutely.’

BDA officials said NHS dentistry is now at a ‘tipping point’.   

According to the UK-wide survey, 90 per of the nation’s NHS dental practices were not accepting new adult patients. 

Wales was the worst for NHS dental access in the UK, with 93 per cent of its practices unable to accept new patients. 

This was followed by England where 91 per cent of 5,416 practices did not accept new patients, with Northern Ireland next with 90 per cent, and Scotland performing the best with only 82 per cent of practices not accepting patients. 

By English region, NHS dental access was poorest in the North West, South West and Yorkshire and the Humber where 98 per cent of practices had no capacity for 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 accessing NHS dental care, but even in the nation’s capital over three quarters (76 per cent) of practices were not accepting new patients.   

Of the NHS practices not taking on patients in the UK, about one in six (17 per cent) said their waiting lists to become a patient were at least a year or more. 

Patients at one practice in Cornwall have been told they face five-year waits.

The survey also found no NHS dentist practice was accepting any new patients in just over a third (35 per cent) of the nation’s 217 local authorities.

The situation was equally dire for children in England, with only 79 per cent of NHS practices not accepting new child patients.

The BDA’s general dental practice committee chairman, Shawn Charlwood, said: ‘NHS dentistry is at a tipping point, with millions unable to get the care they need and more dentists leaving with every day that passes,’ he said. 

‘We’re seeing the results of years of chronic neglect, set into overdrive by the pressures of the pandemic. The question now is will ministers step up before it’s too late?

‘Without real reform and fair funding NHS dentistry will die, and our patients will pay the price.’

Patients across the UK are struggling to access NHS dentistry with 93 per cent of practices in Wales, 91 per cent in England, 90 per cent in Northern Ireland and 82 per cent in Scotland not accepting new adult patients

The BDA previously said some 3,000 dentists have moved away from NHS work entirely since March 2020.

And a poll of 2,200 high street dentists in England found that 45 per cent have reduced their NHS commitment since the start of the pandemic.

They also found that 75 per cent are ‘likely’ to reduce, or further reduce, their NHS commitment in the next 12 months.

Responding to the survey, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said the Government was already acting to support NHS dentistry. 

 ‘The NHS commits around £3 billion to dentistry each year and have made an extra £50 million to help bust the Covid backlogs, building on the unprecedented £1.7 billion support we provided during the pandemic, to protect teams and patients by paying dental practices for the work they would normally have carried out if it were not for Covid regulations,’ they said. 

Last month health chiefs unveiled a plan for healthy NHS dentistry patients to only see a dentist every two years for a check up to help ease appointment waiting times and care backlogs.

In another move designed to ease pressure on dentists, dental therapists will also be allowed to carry out fillings, crowns, and a range of treatments. 

NHS dentistry has been in crisis for many years. Many dental surgeries say it is no longer financially viable to offer NHS procedures, leading to an ‘exodus’ of dentists into the private sector.

It’s not uncommon for Britons to have to call up to 40 practices to find an NHS dentist in their area taking on new patients. 

Official health service data, which records the number of adults seen by NHS dentists in 24 month periods, shows only 15.8million English adults saw a dentist between December 2019 and the end of 2021.

This is 6million less than the same period between December 2017 and end of 2019. 

Additionally the NHS now has the smallest dentist workforce in a decade, with each dentist having a caseload of about 2,000 patients. 

The situation has led to some desperate patients resorting to risky at-home procedures — including pulling out their own teeth with pliers.

Others have flew 6,000 miles to Brazil to be seen.

The BBC and BDA survey was carried out between May and July with researchers contacting 6,880 dental practices offering NHS services. 

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