An overwhelming majority of dentists are being forced to deal with horrific and gruesome cases of DIY dentistry because the NHS cannot cope with patients’ needs
One of Britain’s top dentists is speaking out about the horrifying mouth injuries hospitals are fixing for patients forced to rip out their own teeth.
New national polling of dentists shows that 82% are treating gruesome cases of DIY dentistry.
Tom Thayer is a hospital consultant in Liverpool is responsible for dealing with the most complex oral health problems now swamping the NHS. A dentist for 43 years he retired in 2019 before returning to the frontline shortly before the Covid-19 crisis.
As well as people ripping their teeth out – leaving shards of tooth in their pus-filled gums – he has treated patients who had superglued crowns back on and says clinics are sending patients for overdose testing as they have taken too many painkillers.
He said: “Sometimes we see the patient immediately and sometimes it could be a week or month later. They’re in constant pain and they can’t eat properly. What drives someone to do something like this? It’s like torture. We shouldn’t be seeing any of this. I’ve found it increasingly distressing at work. We see bits of tooth sticking out of the gum, inflamed gums as well as infections with pus coming out. Gums are torn and bleeding.”
British Dental Association polling, carried out for the Mirror, also showed that since the pandemic only 14% of the 500 dentists asked UK-wide were not witnessing this DIY problem. NHS intensive care data showed serious oral infections such as sepsis have almost doubled in the last decade under the Tories – with almost 150 patients dying.
Separate data from the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre shows 2,820 mouth infections that required intensive care treatment between 2010 and 2019.
The review, published in the British Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, showed 78% of patients sent to intensive care had developed sepsis. It states around one in every 20 such admissions died. A BBC investigation found 90% of English practices are not accepting new adult NHS patients.
The Mirror has launched the Dentists for All campaign with key demands to rescue NHS dentistry. Tom added: “There just isn’t enough dentists and people can’t get to them.”
Eddie Crouch, British Dental Association chair, said: “Day in day out dentists in our hospitals are seeing scenes straight out of a Dickens novel. Ministers need to take some responsibility.
“A wealthy 21st Century nation is slipping back to Victorian era on their watch.”
Our 3 demands
Everyone should have access to an NHS dentist
More than 12 million people were unable to access NHS dental care last year – more than 1 in 4 adults in England. At the same time 90% of dental practices are no longer accepting new NHS adult patients. Data from the House of Commons Library showed 40% of children didn’t have their recommended annual check-up last year.
Restore funding for dental services and recruit more NHS dentists
The UK spends the smallest proportion of its heath budget on dental care of any European nation. Government spending on dental services in England was cut by a quarter in real terms between 2010 and 2020. The number of NHS dentists is down by more than 500 to 24,151 since the pandemic.
Change the contracts
A Parliamentary report by the Health Select Committee has branded the current NHS dentists’ contracts as “not fit for purpose” and described the state of the service as “unacceptable in the 21st century”. The system effectively sets quotas on the maximum number of NHS patients a dentist can see as it caps the number of procedures they can perform each year. Dentists also get paid the same for delivering three or 20 fillings, often leaving them out of pocket. The system should be changed so it enables dentists to treat on the basis of patient need.
Have you had to resort to drastic measures because you couldn’t access an NHS dentist? Are you a parent struggling to get an appointment for a child? Email [email protected] or call 0800 282591