Brits doing 'DIY dentistry' to pull their own teeth out due to lack of NHS appointments

Close up of dentist holding angled mirror and hook while examining patient. Young woman is with mouth open getting dental checkup in hospital.
Most NHS dental practices in the UK are not accepting new adult patients under the health service, a survey shows. (Getty)

Desperate Britons are turning to "DIY dentistry" to pull out their own teeth because of a lack of NHS appointments across the UK.

The warning was made after a BBC survey revealed on Monday that nine in 10 NHS dental practices are not accepting new adult patients under the health service.

It also found that, in England, eight out of 10 NHS practices were not accepting new child patients.

The British Dental Association (BDA), which helped compile the survey, said NHS dentistry was at a "tipping point" following years of under-investment.

The survey said a lack of NHS appointments had led people to drive hundreds of miles for treatment, pull out their own teeth without anaesthesia, eat little more than soup and make their own dentures.

Watch: Man pulled his own tooth out after struggling to get dental appointment

In response to the investigation's findings, Louise Ansari, national director of Healthwatch England, said: "It’s not unusual for us to hear stories of DIY dentistry, things like making teeth out of resin and sticking them into their gums with superglue, which is an absolute desperate situation for somebody to be in.”

Asked on BBC Radio 4's Today programme if she had heard of people pulling out their own teeth, Ansari said: “Yes, absolutely.”

Commenting on the BBC and BDA survey, 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."

Caroline Young, from Blackpool, told the BBC she had crowns fitted to her teeth by an NHS dentist, but her practice stopped treating people on the health service and she was unable to find a new one.

She calls dentists almost every week, some as far as 20 miles away, in an effort to find treatment.

Read more: NHS plans dental check-ups every two years in bid to improve access

Her crowns gradually fell out and she now uses a form of plastic after seeing tips on social media.

"There are times when I've tried to fit it, and it's not worked, and I'll sit in floods of tears because I can't go out," she told the BBC.

NHS dental treatment is not free for most adults, but it is subsidised.

The BDA and BBC identified 8,533 dental practices across the UK that were believed to hold NHS contracts, and attempts were made to call them all.

Across England, 91% of NHS practices were not accepting new adult patients, 4,933 out of 5,416, rising to 97% in the East Midlands, and 98% in the South West, North West and Yorkshire and the Humber.

The best place for access was London, where almost one in four practices were taking on new adult NHS patients.

Access was best in London, where almost a quarter of practices were taking on new adult NHS patients

EMBARGOED TO 0500 MONDAY AUGUST 8 File photo dated 19/05/11 of a general view of a dentist at work. The majority of NHS dental practices in the UK are unable to offer appointments to new adult patients, according to a survey. The British Dental Association (BDA) and BBC identified 8,533 dental practices across the UK that were believed to hold NHS contracts, and attempts were made to call them all. Issue date: Monday August 8, 2022.
NHS dentistry is at a 'tipping point', the British Dental Association has warned. (PA)

Of those practices not taking on adults in England, 23% (1,124) said they had an open waiting list, and 16% (791) said the wait time was a year or longer, or were unable to say how long it would be.

Out of 152 local authorities in England, BBC researchers did not successfully reach any practices accepting new adult NHS patients in 56 (37%) local authorities.

In England, 79% of NHS practices were not accepting new child patients – 4,293 out of 5,416.

The calls made by the BBC found that across Northern Ireland, 90% of NHS practices were not accepting new adult patients. For Scotland it was 82% and the figure for Wales was 93%.

Shawn Charlwood, chairman of the BDA’s general dental practice committee, 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.

“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?

“Nothing we’ve heard from government to date gives us any confidence this service has a future.

Man dentist in face mask and glasses doing treatment for patient blonde lady, holding dental tools, wearing rubber gloves. Stomatology, dentistry, modern dental clinic concept
Patients are resorting to desperate 'DIY dentistry' because they can't access NHS dentists. (Getty)

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

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

A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman 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.

“The NHS commits around £3bn to dentistry each year and have made an extra £50m to help bust the COVID backlogs, building on the unprecedented £1.7bn 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.”