Falling numbers of state dentists in England has led to some people taking extreme measures, including extracting their own teeth, according to a new study released Monday.
Others have used superglue to stick crowns back on, rather than stumping up for private treatment, said the study. One person spoke of carrying out 14 separate extractions on himself with pliers.
More typically, a lack of publicly-funded dentists means that growing numbers go private: 78 percent of private patients said they were there because they could not find a National Health Service (NHS) dentist, and only 15 percent because of better treatment.
“This is an uncomfortable read for all of us, and poses serious questions to politicians from patients,” said Sharon Grant of the Commission for Patient and Public Involvement in Health.
Overall, six percent of patients had resorted to self-treatment, according to the survey of 5,000 patients in England, which found that one in five had decided against dental work because of the cost.
One researcher involved in compiling the study — carried out by members of England’s Patient and Public Involvement Forums — came across three people in one morning who had pulled out teeth themselves.
Dentists are also concerned about the trend.
Fifty-eight percent said new dentists’ contracts introduced last year had made the quality of care worse, while 84 percent thought they had failed to make it easier for patients to find care.
Almost half of all dentists — 45 percent — said they no longer take NHS patients, while 41 percent said they had an “excessive” workload. Twenty-nine percent said their clinic had problems recruiting or retaining dentists.
“These findings indicate that the NHS dental system is letting many patients down very badly,” said Grant.
“It appears many are being forced to go private because they don’t want to lose their current trusted and respected dentist or because they just can’t find a local NHS dentist.”