The dire state of NHS dentistry is a crisis that only seems to get worse.
Brits have complained about having to wait years for an appointment, pulling out their own teeth with pliers and travelling abroad after finding it impossible to get an NHS appointment.
One ex-miner has lived off painkillers and soup because he’s spent seven months unsuccessfully trying to get an NHS appointment to fix his broken crowns.
Another even went to war-stricken Ukraine because it was half the price of paying privately.
The crisis was perfectly illustrated by pictures of hundreds of desperate Britons — including the disabled and elderly — queuing outside a newly-opened practice in Bristol this week. The snaking lines were described as being ‘reminiscent of Soviet-era Eastern Europe’.
Today the Government finally unveiled its long-awaited NHS dental recovery plan, described as ‘putting NHS dentistry on a sustainable footing’.
Under Rishi Sunak’s bold blueprint to fix the appointments crisis plaguing millions, dentists will be offered up to £50 to see patients who haven’t had a check-up in the last two years. Up to 240 dentists willing to relocate to ‘dental deserts’ will also be paid a £20,000 ‘golden hello’.
Barbara Cook, a mother-of-two and health food shop worker from St Pauls in Bristol, hasn’t seen a dentist for five years. This week, she finally secured an appointment for April after waiting in the queue of the newly-opened told Saint Pauls Dental Practice, along with hundreds of others
But the plan — unveiled 10 months after it was promised — was slammed by dental bosses and politicians for not going far enough, with one saying that it amounted to ‘rearranging the deckchairs’.
NHS dentistry has been in crisis for years, with leaders claiming the sector has been chronically underfunded, making it financially unviable to carry out treatments.
Exacerbating the problem is that, as more dentists leave the NHS, those that remain become swamped by more and more patients.
Here, MailOnline shares the stories of those caught up in the ever-worsening dentistry crisis…
The NHS urges children to see a dentist at least once a year, while adults can wait up to two years between visits if they have good oral health.
But mother-of-two Barbara Cook, a health food shop worker from St Pauls in Bristol, yesterday revealed she hadn’t seen a dentist for five years.
She was one of hundreds who lined up outside newly-opened Saint Pauls Dental Practice in the hope of securing a spot on their books.
Elderly and disabled people were among the crowd who gathered from Monday.
She told MailOnline: ‘I’ve registered here today and I’m booked for an examination in April.’
Another woman stuck in the line yesterday with her grandson said the six-year-old has ‘never been able to see an NHS dentist’.
And on Monday, one woman, named Maria, told BristolLive she had been there since 8.30am in the hope of securing a place, while her neighbour, a disabled cancer patient, ‘had no choice’ but to brave the cold queue.
Last March, Richard Howe, from Ely in Cambridgeshire, revealed he had travelled to war-torn Ukraine to see a dentist after being unable to access care in the UK.
Mr Howe developed an abscess under one of his teeth in February but was told by his local NHS dentist that there was ‘no chance’ of getting an NHS appointment and that he would have to be seen privately.
Richard Howe, from Ely in Cambridgeshire, travelled to war-torn Ukraine for a dentist to treat an abscess that had developed under one of his teeth
Mr Howe was told by his local dentist that there was ‘no chance’ of getting an NHS appointment. The cheapest price he was quoted for private care in the UK was £950, while he paid just £220 for travel, a check-up and dental work in Kyiv
After looking into this option, the cheapest quote he got was £875, plus a £75 emergency fee.
As a last resort, the father-of-three decided to travel to Kyiv, where he had lived with his family for 12 years before the war, to have the work done at his old practice.
They told him they could see him immediately, so he took a flight to Poland and caught a 13-hour train across the border to Kyiv.
Within a week, his abscess had been drained. He also had a routine check-up which led to him having extra work done, including three root canals.
As he still owns a home in the capital, his accommodation was free. Travel expenses totalled £181 while the dental work itself cost £220 — less than half the cost of treatment in the UK.
Three-year-old Sid Hall will be left waiting a year for treatment, despite his black, crumbling teeth leaving him in so much pain he cannot eat.
Sid, from Scarborough in North Yorkshire, has hypomineralisation — a condition affecting the enamel — and needs four teeth removed.
But due to his age this must be done under a general anaesthetic in hospital by a specialist team, who are busy battling backlogs fuelled by the appointments crisis.
Sid, from Scarborough in North Yorkshire, will have waited one year by the time he has four teeth removed in hospital under general anaesthetic
The three-year-old has hypomineralisation — a condition affecting the enamel — that has left him with black, crumbling teeth and unable to eat
The condition is likely to have developed during his mother Claire’s pregnancy or during Sid’s infancy. It has nothing to do with poor brushing.
Ms Hall told The Mirror: ‘All I can do is give him Calpol and Bonjela. Last week he was just saying ‘ow, ow, ow, not eating’.
‘I can’t believe we’re in this position in a developed country. The system is just not fit for purpose.’
His NHS dentist referred Sid, whose language development has also been affected, to a specialist last June.
However, his parents were told an initial assessment would take 12 months due to ‘high demand’.
In a post shared on TikTok, Natalie Bailey revealed she has been waiting for almost five years on an NHS waiting list, after failing to get an appointment at any dentist in her local area.
‘My wisdom tooth is impacted, growing wonky, my gum is swollen, I can’t eat,’ she said.
Ms Bailey said she has been forced to rely on soft food, while pain-relief medication codeine ‘isn’t even touching the pain’.
She was told private treatment would cost in excess of £500, which she can’t afford.
Natalie Bailey has been waiting for almost five years to have treatment for her wisdom tooth and swollen gum on the NHS, after being unable to get an appointment at any dentist in her local area and private clinics quoting her an unaffordable £500
David Creamer, an ex-miner from Blackpool, secured an NHS dental appointment this week after a seven month wait. The 62-year-old, from Rotherham, had been ‘living on painkillers and soup’ after four crown teeth snapped off his top jaw as he bit into a sandwich in June last year
‘Do they think I just have £500 when we are living in a cost of living crisis? And can’t even scrape through each month,’ she told the video.
Responding to the TikTok, one user said: ‘I’ve just had mine out, I was waiting three years.’
Meanwhile, another wrote: ‘I’m in the exact same position, it sucks.’
This week, ex-miner David Creamer from Blackpool finally secured an NHS dental appointment after a seven month wait.
The 62-year-old, from Rotherham, claimed to have been living on painkillers and soup after four crown teeth snapped off his top jaw as he bit into a sandwich in June last year.
He had been quoted £5,400 for private dental treatment but could not afford it.
He told The Blackpool Gazette: ‘It all just came out of the blue. The call came from a dentist in Rotherham called Ivy Cottage Dental Care. I still don’t know how they got hold of me.
‘They said, “We’ve been told to offer you an appointment”. I arranged the assessment for next Thursday.
‘For months I’ve been in agony, but all of a sudden I’ve been accepted.’