02 Jun

DIY dentistry on the rise in the UK as patients struggle to get appointments

A growing number of people are resorting to DIY dentistry, as patients struggle to get appointments.

Studies suggest that there was a surge in DIY dentistry during the pandemic, when lockdowns closed dental practices and restrictions were in place when surgeries reopened. Dental clinics have now been open for almost 2 years, yet numbers of patients attempting DIY dentistry are on the rise again. The main issue is that patients are unable to get appointments with local NHS dentists.

Reports from health watchdogs contain numerous case studies and examples, including people pulling their own teeth out, using glue to try and fix broken teeth and filing their teeth using household metal instruments. The proportion of patients experiencing difficulties getting appointments has been increasing with each report. Over 40% of adults in England now report access problems, and in some areas, figures are much higher.

DIY dentistry covers a wide range of makeshift treatments and procedures, including taking painkillers to treat infections and toothache, using dental repair kits to fill cavities or repair cracked and chipped teeth and extracting teeth. DIY repairs carry risks, but one of the main concerns for dentists and patients is the lack of certainty in terms of when patients will be able to see a dentist to access treatment, which will eliminate pain in the long term. DIY treatment may provide a quick-fix, but it doesn’t tackle the root cause, which means that even minor issues can get much worse.

Private dentistry has become more commonplace during the pandemic. Figures show that in some parts of the country, almost a third of dentists have switched to private care and surveys indicate that more will follow suit in the coming months. The demand for dental services means that some patients are still having to join waiting lists, even if they pay for private care. The cost of living crisis means that many cannot even fathom making an appointment at a private practice.

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, chief executive of the Oral Health Foundation, said that DIY dentistry should be avoided, apart from “very short-term fixes with temporary fillings.” Dr Carter called on the government to increase funding and support training and recruitment as quickly as possible.