Pandemic prompts DIY dentistry crisis

A Redbridge resident pulled out their own tooth after finding it impossible to get a dentist appointment during the pandemic.

Independent watchdog Healthwatch Redbridge has published a report highlighting the “appalling” shortage of non-private dentists in the borough.

Healthwatch Redbridge’s chief executive Cathy Turland said a quarter of residents contacting them are seeking advice about dentistry support.

She said: “We are really concerned that some people have told us they have resorted to treating themselves, even to the extent of one person telling us they had to remove their own teeth. This shouldn’t happen in our society.

“Others have had to decide which treatments they could afford, or had to take out loans to pay, even when using NHS dental treatments, due to the costs.” 

In an anonymous survey, one patient said they were “told to go private” due to a lack of NHS appointments and were told their treatment would cost £2,600.

Healthwatch volunteers conducted a mystery shopper exercise between July and September 2021, calling more than 30 NHS dentists around the borough.

One volunteer was told there were no NHS appointments available that day but they could be seen if they paid £45.

Government figures obtained by the British Dental Association estimates Redbridge residents have missed out on 129,179 courses of dental treatment since the pandemic began.

At a meeting earlier this week, Redbridge’s Health Scrutiny Commitee chair Beverley Brewer has said she will ask a local NHS representative to discuss how the shortage of affordable dentistry can be mitigated.

An NHS England spokesperson said previously: “NHS England is developing a four-year roadmap to get dental services back on to a normalised setting and we are looking at different ways of directing patients to the right place to get routine or urgent dental services.”

Josh Mellor

Local Democracy Reporter