'My artificial teeth were made with instructions on social media': UK dentist crisis encourages dangerous practices

‘My artificial teeth were made with instructions on social media’: UK dentist crisis encourages dangerous practices

Residents of a city in the UK where not even a single NHS dentist is available to treat new patients tells how desperate they have become and have resorted to making homemade dentures by following instructions on social media.

Ian Simpson, from Blackpool in northwest England, says he’s spent years trying to book a dental appointment, but to no avail.

A UK-wide BBC investigation was unable to find any clinics in the county of Lancashire accepting new patients from the NHS.

Simpson says he “given up” and that he avoids smiling.

NHS England said it had made the latest changes to make more resources available and to support clinics.

But Simpson says he now plans to travel to Turkey or Italy for treatment, frustrated with the long wait.

I don’t smile as much as I used to. It breaks my heart. Tried and tried. In secret, the budget was 9,900 pounds (more than 60 thousand Brazilian reais),” he says.

“I had beautiful teeth and always took care of them,” adds the former chef and boxer.

Oran Hodgkiss, 22, says he has had to travel to his home country of Northern Ireland for dental treatment.

The student, who is entitled to free treatment by the NHS, has had a wisdom tooth problem for months and is in a lot of pain.

Caroline Young made her own dentures by melting plastic – Image: BBC

He says he tried treatment with 12 dentists to no avail – only one of them offered to put him on an 18-month waiting list.

“It’s ridiculous. I understand there are delays caused by the coronavirus, but not getting a dentist is unbelievable,” he said.

Hodgkes says he’s desperate to get his teeth fixed in time for his wedding next month, and now faces “more flights and absences from work.”

Caroline Young says she had to resort to making her own dentures by melting plastic after seeing instructions on social media.

She explained that the crowns she had put on before were falling off.

Young experimented with superglue for a while, but now he’s using polymorphed plastics — tiny granules that dissolve when dipped in hot water — and making them into false teeth.

“It’s not what I want to do. I prefer to have teeth. That way I can smile at people a little from a distance and not look too weird,” she says.

“There were times when I tried to fit in and it didn’t work. Then I cry because I can’t leave. I can’t leave the house. It’s frustrating.”

Dentists warn that homemade dentures not only pose a choking hazard but also food traps that can lead to cavities and gum damage.

Emma Clarke says the difficulty of finding an NHS dentist is ‘frustrating’ – Image: Emma Clarke via BBC

Emma Clark, from nearby Fleetwood, says she’s tried dentists as far away as Lancaster.

She broke her two front teeth early in the coronavirus pandemic and has issues with four others.

The 39-year-old says her teeth have been “crunching” while waiting to find a dentist and that she cannot afford private consultations.

“It’s horrible. We shouldn’t be paid. It’s unfair. It’s frustrating. It’s really dented my confidence,” he said with a sigh.

Clarke adds that he’s also been turning to homemade plastic dentures.

“They are better than no teeth”as you say.

Emma Clarke says the small plastic beads she uses are ‘better than no teeth’ – Image: Emma Clarke via BBC

Rebecca Carey, who recently became a mother, needed treatment for a broken tooth and the closest NHS dentist she could find was in Liverpool, more than 80km away.

“I can’t eat that side of my mouth, so I don’t spoil any more,” she says.

“It’s disgusting. The city of Blackpool wants to continue to thrive, but it can’t take care of its residents. No one explained why they weren’t accepting new patients either. They just told us ‘we can’t help and there’s no waiting list’.”

An NHS spokesperson said: “The NHS recently announced its first dental reforms since 2006 that will support clinics to improve access, including giving high-performing clinics the opportunity to increase their activity and treat more patients.”

“Discussions about other changes that benefit patients and staff are still ongoing,” he said.

The spokesperson added that the coronavirus pandemic had had a “disproportionate impact” on the region, disrupting routine care, as dentists prioritized urgent cases.

It concluded that NHS England had invested £50m to help increase access to dentists across the country, which equates to more than £7m in North West England alone.

MP Scott Benton says recent changes to the dental contract made by NHS England “should go a long way towards reducing the backlog of dental problems that have arisen due to the pandemic”.

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