Victims of the NHS dentistry crisis

Victims of the NHS dentistry crisis

From a man forced to pull out his own teeth with pliers to one who travelled to UKRAINE for treatment, the victims of the NHS dentistry crisis amid fears service is ‘gone for good’ with 80% of practices now not taking new patients

  • George Glinos removed 11 of his teeth with pliers after not getting appointment
  • Richard Howe travelled to Ukraine for a dentist after being told to go private

Brits have told how they have been forced to pull out their own teeth with pliers or travel abroad to see a dentist after finding it impossible to get an NHS appointment.

George Glinos, from Liverpool, said he was first unable to see a dentist on the health service five years ago, which led him to remove one of his own teeth.

The father-of-one said he calls up practices at the start of every month but has never been able to get an appointment. As a result, he has since removed 11 of his teeth.

Meanwhile, Richard Howe, from Ely in Cambridgeshire, travelled to war-torn Ukraine to see a dentist after being unable to access care in the UK and being told going private would cost more than £1,000.

It comes as shocking figures show that eight in 10 dental practices across England aren’t accepting new adult patients. 

The Nuffield Trust, which aims to improve healthcare in the UK, said a sweeping overhaul is needed, as the days of heavily subsidised NHS dentistry are ‘gone for good’.

George Glinos, from Liverpool, said he was first unable to see a dentist on the health service five years ago, which led him to remove one of his own teeth

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Mr Glinos, 68, left his old dental practice five years ago as he was unhappy with his dentist. However, the retired builder was then unable to find another practice.

He said: ‘Every time I try, nobody is interested in taking new people on. I ring up on the first day of every month, usually on all the national health dentist lists.

‘Nobody is interested. Nobody takes your name down or anything.’

Mr Glinos added: ‘In the four years or so where I have not had a dentist, I have had to extract my own teeth. I have a little jar and there are 11 in it.

‘They are all the teeth I have extracted myself over the four years. I just can’t get anyone to look at my teeth.’ 

How much does NHS dentistry cost?

There are 3 NHS charge bands:

Band 1: £25.80

Covers an examination, diagnosis and advice. If necessary, it also includes X-rays, a scale and polish, and planning for further treatment.

Band 2: £70.70

Covers all treatment included in Band 1, plus additional treatment, such as fillings, root canal treatment and removing teeth (extractions).

Band 3: £306.80

Covers all treatment included in Bands 1 and 2, plus more complex procedures, such as crowns, dentures and bridges.

For comparison, check-ups can cost between £20 and £120 at private dentists, according to Which?.

Dentures and bridges can also cost up to £2,520, the consumer watchdog says.

When any of his teeth becomes loose, he has to ‘work at them for a few weeks’ before pulling it out with pliers. He said: ‘It’s incredibly painful, but what can you do?’

Mr Glinos now is left with has just four ‘stubs’ on his top jaw and one tooth left on his bottom jaw which he uses to bite things, adding: ‘Basically, that is my life now.’ 

But he mainly follows a liquid diet of soup and uses painkillers to manage his discomfort.

Mr Glinos said he ‘certainly’ can’t afford to go private, which would cost hundreds of pounds for a tooth extraction.

In another case, Mr Howe developed an abscess under one of his teeth in February but was told by his local NHS dentist that there was ‘no chance’ of getting an NHS appointment and that he would have to be seen privately.

After looking into this option, the least expensive quote he got was £875, plus a £75 emergency fee. 

As a last resort, the father-of-three decided to travel to Kyiv, where he had lived with his family for 12 years before the war, to have the work done at his old practice.

They told him they could see him immediately, so he took a flight to Poland and caught a 13-hour train across the border to Kyiv. 

Within a week, his abscess had been drained. He also had a routine check-up which led to him having extra work done, including three root canals.

As he still owns a home in the capital, his accommodation was free. Travel expenses totalled £181 while the dental work itself cost £220 — less than half the cost of treatment in the UK. 

Mr Howe, who used to work in the motoring industry, said: ‘When I saw the bill, I knew it had been worth it.’

He added: ‘It just shows how much of a mess NHS dental care is over here right now.’

Another man was forced to repair his own tooth with a kit he bought online after failing to get an NHS appointment. 

Antony Watson, from Bridlington in Yorkshire, originally broke his tooth 20 years ago. Dentists gave him a crown at the time.

But when he damaged it a second time after biting into a cookie, he wasn’t able to book an NHS appointment because he isn’t registered with any clinic. 

And he said he ‘definitely couldn’t afford’ to pay for private treatment ‘on the spot’, forcing him to look elsewhere for a solution. 

Mr Howe developed an abscess under one of his teeth in February but was told by his local NHS dentist that there was ‘no chance’ of getting an NHS appointment and that he would have to be seen privately

Antony Watson, from Bridlington in Yorkshire, is not registered with an NHS dentist and said he could not afford to pay for private dentistry treatment

After researching online, he ordered a £3.99 DIY dentist kit that contained a 20g bag of plastic beads, which are boiled in hot water until they are soft and clear.

The mixture can then be used to fit the shape of a damaged tooth.

He then used super glue to secure the beads in place.

While Mr Watson did accidentally superglue his finger, he stated he would happily repeat the process again, despite dentists warning that it could be a choking hazard or create a trap for food, which could trigger even more dental woes. 

It comes as a shocking analysis suggests that eight in 10 dentists in England are not accepting new adult patients.

Of the 4,969 dental surgeries across the country who have recently updated their status, 82 per cent are not adding new over-18s to their list.

Another 71 per cent aren’t taking new children, NHS data shows.

But the figures are even bleaker in some parts of the country, with 99 per cent of practices in the South West seemingly rejecting requests from adults seeking NHS dental care.

MailOnline’s handy interactive tool lets you input your postcode to check the status of dentists in your area.

The collapse of NHS dentistry has seen millions miss vital checkups.

Some have resorted to queuing overnight for a place with a practice or performing to DIY dentistry. 

Labour, which analysed the data, said that it would ramp-up funding to NHS dental practices, providing hundreds of thousands more appointments and incentives for dentists to works in the parts of the country with the greatest need.

The data shows that there are 6,605 dental practices in England.

Of these, 4,969 have provided recent responses to the NHS regarding their patient list status.

Only 43 per cent of over-18s were seen by a dentist in the 24 months to June this year, compared to more than half in the same period before the pandemic struck

Overall, 18.1million adults saw their dentist in the two years to June 2023, up from 16.4million in the 24 months to June 2022. But it is still well below the 21million seen in the two years to June 2020

Behind the South West, the situation is also dire in North East, where just 97 per cent of practices are open to taking new adult patients, followed by the East Midlands (94 per cent) and East of England (91 per cent).

Meanwhile, it is easiest in London, where six in 10 clinics are accepting, followed by the West Midlands (73 per cent) and the North West (77 per cent). 

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said: ‘The Conservatives have left NHS dentistry to wither on the vine, and now the service is barely worthy of the name. 

‘Patients are told to go without or do it themselves, with DIY dentistry now shockingly common in Tory Britain.

‘The slow death of dentistry is the Ghost of Christmas Future for the NHS, if the Conservatives are given a fifth term: those who can afford it going private and those who can’t left with a poor service for poor people. 

‘Labour has a fully-costed plan to rescue NHS dentistry by gripping the immediate crisis and reforming the service in the long-term.’

It comes as experts at the Nuffield Trust today warned that NHS dental services are at their ‘most perilous point’ ever and radical reforms are needed to ‘slow the decay’. 

Its report states that the situation is so bad the service must now be limited to just check-ups, pain management and emergency treatment.

Thea Stein said, chief executive of the Nuffield Trust, said: ‘Difficult and frankly unpalatable policy choices will need to be made. If, as it seems, the original model of NHS dentistry is gone for good, then surely the imperative is to provide enough access for a basic core service for those most in need.

‘Whichever way we go, I’m afraid that NHS dentistry cannot continue without some kind of evaluation of the offer, even if there are some major improvements to the way services are contracted and commissioned.’

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: ‘We fund more than £3billion of NHS dentistry a year and… have plans to increase dental training places by 40 per cent.’

An NHS spokesman added the service had ‘implemented the first reforms to dentistry in 16 years,’ which are helping to address the backlogs from the pandemic, adding: ‘Dental activity [is] up by more than a fifth on last year.’

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