Updated:15:04, Monday October 15, 2007
Falling numbers of NHS dentists are forcing many patients to go without treatment or even try pulling out their own teeth, a study has revealed.
Almost a fifth (19%) of those questioned said they had missed out on dental work because of the cost.
The research found 6% had even resorted to treating themselves because they could not find a dentist.
The 5,000-plus patients who were interviewed also spoke of taking out their own teeth or fixing broken crowns with glue.
One person in Lancashire said he had carried out 14 separate extractions with a pair of pliers.
Roger from London told the Your Stories section of the Sky News website that he combines visits to the dentist with holidays in Egypt.
“I was quoted over £2,000 for a bridge by a dentist in the UK. I had two weeks in a five-star hotel all inclusive.
“Two visits to the dentist my bridge fixed in. Went diving and came home with change from £1,300.”
Health Minister Ben Bradshaw told Sky News it was a myth that everyone used to be able to get free dental treatment on the NHS.
“At its very highest it was 60% in this country, now it’s 56%. We have always paid for dental care, even on the NHS,” he said.
He said people in urgent need should always be able to get NHS treatment but it would only be free for some people, like children, those on benefits and pregnant women.
Mr Bradshaw said the Labour Government had increased the number of NHS dentists and brought down the maximum cost of complex treatment.
“There are now 4,000 more than there were in 1997, we are moving in the right direction, but there are still problems and I am very sorry about that.”
Almost three fifths (58%) of dentists blamed new contracts brought in by the Government last year.
Four out of 10 (41%) felt they had an “excessive” workload with 29% saying they had problems recruiting or retaining dentists.
More than 5,200 patients and 750 dentists were interviewed as part of the Dentistry Watch survey carried out by the PPI Forums.