People are resorting to do-it-yourself dentistry because they cannot get NHS dental care, ministers have been warned.
Labor MP Cat Smith told the Commons a constituent even placed teeth he had pulled out of her mouth on the table in front of her as they met to discuss dental backlogs.
Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting meanwhile told the story of a man who tried to fix his ‘unbearable’ toothache with a set of pliers, but ‘they wouldn’t stop to slip and it was agony”.
As MPs took part in a Labor-led debate on access to NHS GPs and dental care, Lancaster and Fleetwood MP Ms Smith told the Commons: ‘I think one of the The toughest counseling surgery appointment I’ve ever had was a constituent who came to me and laid the teeth he’d pulled out of his mouth on the table in front of me.
“It’s something that, frankly, will stay with me forever, but it should never have come to this.”
Ms Smith added: ‘The Culture Secretary recently admitted that a decade of Conservative mismanagement left our NHS insufficient and inadequate before Covid hit. It looks like they are now breaking their promise to hire the GPs we need and are overseeing an exodus of dentists from the NHS.
“And those who can’t afford to go private resort to do-it-yourself dentistry or they suffer.”
Labor MP Paul Blomfield spoke of a constituent in Sheffield Central who faced an 18-month waiting list for an appointment with an NHS dentist, while another rang ‘all the dentists in a six-mile radius” and was forced to go private because no state-funded care was available.
Shadow health secretary Mr Streeting described the ‘agony’ of a person who wrote to their MP explaining how they had tried to have a tooth pulled after failing to find a dentist.
He said the matter was raised by Labor MP and shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper (Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford), with Mr Streeting saying: ‘She told me that one of her voters couldn’t get a dentist appointment anywhere for an unbearable toothache, and they’re in too much pain all night.
“When his 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’m in such agony that I took ibuprofen, drank whiskey and tried to pull it out myself with pliers, but they wouldn’t stop no slipping and it was agony”.
“What kind of country have we become, when the most common reason children go to hospital is to have their teeth pulled? 78 children every day in our country go to the hospital to have their teeth extracted.
Mr Streeting claimed the Tories were overseeing an ‘exodus’ of dentists, with 2,000 dentists leaving the NHS last year, around 10% of all employed dentists 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 contact in dentistry.
Sajid Javid replied: “He talks like he doesn’t know where these pressures are coming from, like he’s had his head under a rock for two years.
“We know that, as the NHS has said, they believe between 11 and 13 million people have stayed away from the NHS, including their GPs and dentists. And now, quite rightly, many of these people are showing up for the treatment they need, and I want them to show up.
The Health Secretary added that the Government had ‘invested an additional £50million in NHS dental services‘ earlier this year which ‘has boosted dental capacity by creating 350,000 additional appointments’ .