Woman faces six-hour round trip to the dentist amid crippling NHS shortage

·4-min read
Nine in 10 NHS dental practices across the UK are not accepting new adult patients for treatment, according to a survey  (PA)
Nine in 10 NHS dental practices across the UK are not accepting new adult patients for treatment, according to a survey (PA)

Patients are facing six-hour round trips to visit the dentist amid a crippling shortage of NHS treatment.

Unable to get medical help, others are resorting to “filing their teeth down with a metal nail file” and “buying dental cement from Germany”.

Sarah Young, 34, from Suffolk, is having to put up with toothache after a filling fell out, taking half her tooth with it.

She has not been able to get treatment for it for almost a year and a half because there are no NHS dentists in the local area that will take her on as a patient.

Are you having to do your own dentistry? If so email holly.bancroft@independent.co.uk

Ms Young, a care home worker, moved to Suffolk almost two years ago and is now facing a six-hour round trip back to her old dentist in Aldershot, Hampshire to get help.

With soaring fuel costs, she has not been able to afford to make the trip or find the time off work to get treatment.

“I’ve tried everywhere”, she told The Independent. “I’ve rung round and there are no spaces anywhere. You do a Google search and it just says ‘full’, ‘not taking NHS patients’.

“I’ve been dealing with it by using painkillers. I’ve started to get used to the pain, but at the beginning I was taking painkillers daily. I was then able to cut it down to every few days, and now I’ve learnt to deal with it.

“I’ve got half a tooth and it’s making eating difficult. I keep catching my tongue and making my tongue sore.”

Sarah Young, 34, has been suffering with half a tooth because there is no dentist near where she lives (Sarah Young)
Sarah Young, 34, has been suffering with half a tooth because there is no dentist near where she lives (Sarah Young)

The BBC revealed on Monday that nine in 10 NHS dental practices across the UK are not accepting new adult patients for treatment.

Ms Young said: “Dentists are only open during the week and I’m at work during the week so it’s not that easy. I don’t want to waste my holiday to go to the dentist and trying to find the time to do it is just impossible.

“At the moment with the cost of petrol, I can’t afford the fuel. And then you’ve got to pay for your treatment, it’s just too much. Whereas if I had one in Saxmundham I could walk.

“At the moment with my job I’m working a lot of nights so I can’t be doing a six hour round trip and then trying to stay away all night, and I can’t afford to do it.

“I don’t get paid sick leave,” she added. “I personally can’t afford to go private.”

One person said that they are ‘resorting to buying dental cement to Germany’ because they can’t get help (PA)
One person said that they are ‘resorting to buying dental cement to Germany’ because they can’t get help (PA)

The campaign group, Toothless in England, said: “Members of the public are fed up and angry - and they have every right to be. They’ve been writing to their MPs, the local press, calling into radio stations up and down the country, but it seems no one in government is listening.”

They called for “radical reform of the NHS dental contract” to create a “funding formula that’s fair to dentists and one that will finally address the nation’s oral health inequalities.”

Patient body Healthwatch said they have been contacted by people who are carrying out “DIY dentistry” on themselves.

One person who wrote in said that they were buying tooth filler from Amazon to fill they tooth up because they could not find an NHS dentist to do it for them.

In a horrifying example, another person said that they have five broken teeth and an ill-fitting top denture. “I have had four dental abscesses and because I can’t see a dentist a GP has had to prescribe antibiotics,” they wrote. “Because the teeth are broken I have had to file some of them down with a metal nail file as the teeth were cutting my tongue.”

Another said: “I simply can’t get a dentist. I had an accident 3 years ago which dislodged my crowns. I resorted to buying dental cement from Germany. I’m sick of phoning round.”

Another parent wrote in saying that they couldn’t find a local dentist to treat their 11-year-old daughter’s toothache. “Local dentist still will not see her or any of us as we would be new patients,” they said.

“Phoned up the national dental helpline. They can’t help unless life threatening and told me to get my daugther a filling kit and do it myself.”