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People pulling out own teeth due to lack of NHS dental care, ministers warned

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting told of a man who tried to solve his ‘unbearable’ toothache with a set of pliers (PA)
Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting told of a man who tried to solve his ‘unbearable’ toothache with a set of pliers (PA)

People are resorting to DIY dentistry because they are unable to get NHS care for their teeth, ministers have been warned.

Labour MP Cat Smith told the Commons that one constituent had even placed teeth he had pulled from his mouth on the table in front of her as they met to discuss delays in dental care.

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting meanwhile told the story of a man who tried to solve his “unbearable” toothache with a set of pliers, but “they kept slipping off and it was agony”.

Prime Minister’s Questions
Labour MP Cat Smith ‘was presented with removed teeth’

As MPs took part in a Labour-led debate on access to GPs and NHS dental care, Lancaster and Fleetwood MP Ms Smith told the Commons: “I think one of the most difficult advice surgery appointments that I’ve ever had to sit through was a constituent who came to me and put on the table in front of me the teeth he had pulled out of his own mouth.

“That is something that will, frankly, stay with me forever but it should never have got to that.”

Ms Smith added: “The Culture Secretary recently admitted a decade of Conservative mismanagement has left our NHS wanting and inadequate before Covid hit. It seems they’re now breaking their promise to hire the GPs we need and they’re overseeing an exodus of NHS dentists.

“And those who can’t afford to go private are resorting to DIY dentistry or they are left in pain.”

Labour MP Paul Blomfield told of a constituent in Sheffield Central who was facing an 18-month waiting list for an appointment with an NHS dentist, while another had rung “every dentist within a six-mile radius” and was forced to go private as no publicly funded care was available.

Shadow health secretary Mr Streeting described the “agony” of one person who wrote to their MP explaining how they tried to pull out their own tooth after failing to find a dentist.

He said the case was raised by Labour MP and shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper (Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford), with Mr Streeting saying: “She told me that one of her constituents can’t get a dentist appointment anywhere for an unbearable toothache, and they are in too much pain through the night.

“When her constituent contacted a dentist, he was told he would have to wait two years for an appointment. He wrote in an email, and I quote: ‘I am in such agony that I took ibuprofen, drank whisky, and tried to pull it out myself with pliers, but they kept slipping off and it was agony’.

“What kind of country have we become, when the most common reason for children to go to hospital is to have their teeth extracted? 78 children every day in our country going to hospital to have their teeth extracted.”

Mr Streeting claimed the Conservatives were overseeing an “exodus” of dentists, with 2,000 dentists quitting the NHS last year, around 10% of all dentists employed in England.

He added: “They promised in 2010 to introduce a new dentistry contract. In 2017 they promised to introduce a new dentistry contract. And the minister’s policy today? She (Maria Caulfield) promises to introduce a new dentistry contact.”

Sajid Javid responded: “He talks as though he doesn’t know where these pressures have come from, as if he has had his head under a rock for two years.

“We know that, as the NHS has said, they believe that between 11 and 13 million people stayed away from the NHS, including from their GPs and dentists. And now, rightly, many of those people are coming forward for the treatment they need, and I want them to come forward.”

The Health Secretary added the Government had “put in an additional £50 million of funds into NHS dental services” at the start of the year, which “boosted dental capacity by creating 350,000 extra appointments”.

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