DIY dentistry on the rise as 90% of NHS practices not seeing new patients

·3 min read
<span>Photograph: Liam McBurney/PA</span>
Photograph: Liam McBurney/PA

Incidents of DIY dentistry, including people using superglue to stick homemade teeth to their gums, are increasing across Britain as more than nine in 10 NHS dental practices are unable to offer appointments to new adult patients, the director of the Healthwatch England watchdog has warned.

According to a survey by the British Dental Association and the BBC, 91% of NHS practices across England were not accepting new adult patients, with this figure rising to 97% in the east midlands, and 98% in the south-west, north-west and Yorkshire and the Humber.

Across Northern Ireland, 90% of NHS practices were not accepting new adult patients, while the figure stood at 82% in Scotland, and 93% in Wales.

The survey also found that of the practices that were not taking on new adults in England, only 23% had an open waiting list, and 16% said the waiting time was at least a year, or were unable to give an estimate as to how long it would be.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Louise Ansari, the national director of Healthwatch England, said the results of the survey showed that the state of dentistry in the UK was “dire”, and that she had heard of people pulling out their own teeth.

Ansari said: “I think the research really does confirm and amplify what we’ve been saying for a couple of years and the situation is pretty 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 added: “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.”

The health secretary has said a “real sprint” would be needed before winter to ensure the NHS was able to deal with the pressures from seasonal flu, coronavirus, and the cost of living crisis.

Speaking to the Telegraph, Steve Barclay said: “We have very real challenges coming down the track in the autumn and winter, and as far as I’m concerned there needs to be a real sprint within Whitehall, and particularly in the Department of Health, to get ready for September.

He added that there was an “urgency” for the healthcare system to prepare, and that decisions needed to happen now, rather than wait until the autumn as it would be too late.

“Part of my role is to prepare for reasonable worst-case scenarios. Obviously those pressures can come in different forms. It might be you get a bad flu, it may be Covid rates are higher than we would expect or like,” Barclay added.

Commenting on the survey results showing NHS dental practices being unable to accept new patients, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Improving patient access to NHS dental care is a government priority and the new reforms to the dental contract announced last month are an important step, allowing the best performing practices to see more patients, making better use of the range of professionals working in the sector such as dental therapists, hygienists and nurses, while also rewarding dentists more fairly for providing more complex care.”