Shortage turns Britons into Do-It-Yourself dentists

LONDON (Reuters) - Some Britons have been using pliers to pull their own teeth out and superglue to keep the fillings in because of poor access to state dental care.

A survey of 5,200 patients showed that some six percent of patients have begun doing a spot of home dentistry, a quarter had chosen to pay a private dentist and that 10 percent of patients had no dentist at all because they could not find one on the National Health Service (NHS).

“Fourteen teeth have had to be removed by myself with pliers,” said one respondent to the survey.

Another temporarily fixed a broken crown with superglue.

The survey, conducted between July and September, also questioned 750 dentists, of whom 45 percent said they were not accepting any more NHS patients.

“These findings indicated that the NHS dental system is letting many patients down very badly,” said Sharon Grant, Chair of the Commission for Patient and Public Involvement in Health, which organised the survey.

“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,” she said.

The British Dental Association (BDA) said the survey highlighted significant problems caused by a new system which offers dentists a guaranteed income rather than being paid for each treatment they perform.

“The new contract has done nothing to improve access for patients and failed to allow dentists to deliver the kind of modern, preventive treatment they want to give,” said BDA Executive Board Chair Susie Sanderson.

The government acknowledged there were problems in accessing NHS dental care but said the report was unrepresentative.

“This survey reflects a very narrow view of NHS dentistry which is at odds with the picture we have,” said a Department of Health spokeswoman.