DIY dentistry on the rise, as 90% of practices turn away NHS patients

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DIY dentistry is on the rise, as around 90% of dental practices in England are forced to turn away NHS patients.

Figures suggest that almost 90% of practices have no adult NHS places and a third cannot accept any more children for NHS care.

A shortage of NHS dentists and huge backlogs accrued during the pandemic have resulted in thousands of patients across the country struggling to access NHS dental care. It is estimated that 43 million appointments have been lost since 2020 and over 3,000 dentists have left the NHS or reduced NHS work.

Natasha Waterfield, a pensioner, is one of many who have resorted to extreme measures to tackle severe pain. Natasha had experienced severe dental pain for 18 months but she was unable to get an appointment with an NHS dentist. One morning, she couldn’t live with the pain any longer and she took a pair of pliers and tried to remove her tooth at home. It took three hours to pull the tooth out and the experience was horrific, Natasha said. It came away bit by bit and she was in agony throughout.

Natasha’s story is increasingly common, as patients cannot access NHS dentistry or afford to pay to see a private dentist. Healthwatch, an independent patient body, claims that there is now a ‘two-tier system’ in place, which means that patients who can pay for private care can see a dentist within days while those who don’t have the necessary funds have to join lengthy waiting lists.

Data suggests that the number of dentists working for the NHS has fallen to its lowest number in a decade. Numbers have fallen from 23,733 dentists in 2020 to 21,544 in 2022.

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