Shocking rise in DIY dentistry: crisis in NHS laid bare as desperate Scots resort to using tools bought online to repair teeth

Soaring numbers of desperate Scots are being forced to perform ‘DIY dentistry’ at home using tools bought on the internet.

Patients in chronic pain are treating themselves as they struggle to get a dental appointment on the NHS.

Others facing lengthy waiting lists are travelling as far as India and Turkey for basic dental checks.

The shocking revelation comes amid an exodus of NHS dentists and controversial cuts to routine check-ups.

Charlotte Waite, director of the British Dental Association, said ¿desperate¿ patients had taken matters into their own hands

Charlotte Waite, director of the British Dental Association, said ‘desperate’ patients had taken matters into their own hands

Charlotte Waite, director of the British Dental Association Scotland, said: ‘Not a week goes by without new cases emerging. These are sights that belong in a Dickens novel, not in a wealthy 21st century nation.

‘The crisis in this service has seen desperate patients take matters into their own hands, or head overseas for care that should be available in their own communities.’ One patient said that after four years on a waiting list, they bought dental tools on Amazon to remove plaque from their teeth – something normally done with a scale and polish.

Another stated they now see a dentist in Goa, India, adding that ‘the irony of this is the dentist we use trained and qualified at Dundee dental hospital’.

A fellow Scot said their dental practice had stopped providing NHS services, meaning that they now go to Turkey to receive check-ups and treatments.

And another had to have private treatment costing almost £400 for X-rays, two fillings and cleaning, leaving them short of money for food.

Liberal Democrat MSP Willie Rennie revealed details of the DIY dentistry and overseas trips after hearing from more than 300 of his constituents.

It comes amid an NHS dentistry funding crisis that has been escalating for years. The most recent figures show a drop of 8 per cent in high street NHS dentists, from 3,038 in March 2020 to 2,791 in September 2022.

Almost half of Scots registered with an NHS dentist have not had a check-up in the past two years, according to recent statistics. And a survey by the British Dental Association found 83 per cent of Scots dentists had treated patients who had performed some form of DIY dentistry since lockdown.

Mr Rennie, MSP for North-East Fife, said: ‘These devastating stories expose the SNP’s excruciating neglect of NHS dentistry. No matter how much pain you are in, seeing a dentist in Scotland is harder than ever before.

‘If the SNP keep refusing to listen, NHS dentistry could vanish from Scotland. I worry that if the SNP continues ignoring the problem, we will see more and more people resorting to desperate measures like these.’

In a Holyrood debate today, the Lib Dems are set to condemn the failure of SNP ministers to repair NHS dentistry.

The service has been struggling for decades, with dentists arguing that the Scottish Government fees they receive have relied on them providing a high volume of treatments at a small margin on each.

It came to a head during the Covid pandemic when dentists were forced to pause services and some practices made a financial loss, leading to dentists leaving the NHS.

Scotland has lost more than a year’s worth of NHS dental appointments since lockdown. A total of 4.6million were carried out between March 2020-2023, but this should have been nearer 9.7million based on previous activity.

Under a new deal between the Government and dentists, the standard time between NHS check-ups has changed from six months to 12-24 months. Patients with healthy teeth face longer intervals and the price of treatments will rise.

Critics have raised concerns that this could mean patients develop dental problems that go unchecked for years.

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