Some have been forced to make teeth out of resin and others have pulled out their own teeth because of the “dire” situation with NHS dentistry, national director of Healthwatch England Louise Ansari said.
The claims come as a survey by the British Dental Association (BDA) and the BBC found that the majority of NHS dental practices in the UK are unable to offer appointments to new adult patients.
Some 8,533 dental practices across the UK that were believed to hold NHS contracts were reached out to as part of the survey.
Across England, 91 per cent of NHS practices were not accepting new adult patients (4,933 of 5,416), rising to 97 per cent in the East Midlands, and 98 per cent in the South West, North West and Yorkshire and the Humber.
Of those practices not taking on adults in England, 23 per cent (1,124) said they had an open waiting list, and 16 per cent (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 per cent) local authorities. They also found 79 per cent of NHS practices in England were not accepting new child patients.
In Northern Ireland, 90 per cent of NHS practices were not accepting new adult patients. For Scotland, it was 82 per cent while Wales hit 93 per cent.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Monday, Ms 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, isn’t it?
“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.
“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 into their gums with superglue, which is an absolutely desperate situation for somebody to be in.”
Asked if she had heard of people pulling out their own teeth, Ms Ansari added: “Yes, absolutely.”
Shawn Charlwood, chairman of the British Dental Association’s general dental practice committee, added: “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.
“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 BDA 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.
The figure also found that 75 per cent are “likely” to reduce, or further reduce, their NHS commitment in the next 12 months.
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, 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.
“The NHS commits around £3bn to dentistry each year and has 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.”
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