Desperate patients rip out teeth with bare hands and resort to glueing replacements in NHS dentist crisis

14 July 2023, 10:30 | Updated: 14 July 2023, 10:33

Brits have resorted to pulling their teeth out with their bare hands as they struggle to get dental help
Brits have resorted to pulling their teeth out with their bare hands as they struggle to get dental help. Picture: Alamy/LBC

By Will Taylor

Brits have resorted to pulling their own teeth out with their bare hands and sticking replacements in with glue as they struggle to get a dentist appointment.

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LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast was told by one woman that she ripped out her front teeth after she was unable to get help and is now hoping to raise money to get replacements in Turkey.

A man said he had resorted to picking up Gorilla Glue from B&Q to stick his teeth in.

It comes as a damning new report found some people are using pliers to carry out "DIY dentistry".

Jackie from Billericay told Nick she used her forefinger and thumb to take her top two front teeth out from her receding gums, having lost the entire top set.

"It is painful, obviously. The second tooth I pulled out I managed to leave a bit of a chip of the tooth in my gum and that started playing up so that got worse and worse," she said.

Read more: Alarming scale of DIY home dentistry in UK revealed as desperate patients ‘pull their own teeth with pliers’

Woman tells Nick Ferrari she pulled out two teeth herself this year

She explained she can only eat "with difficulty", forcing food between her bottom teeth and top gum.

"I've been trying to get a denture that fits me without me gagging and throwing up or just falling out of my mouth," she said.

But she needs implants, which she said she has been unable to get out of the NHS. The procedure is usually carried out privately.

Now, she hopes to raise some £4,000 to fly to Turkey to have them fixed.

Man uses Gorilla Glue to 'put his teeth back in'

Justin, from Purley, told Nick some of his teeth were rotting away and they were "quite wobbly, so they came out on their own".

But the replacements put in by his dentist came out after three weeks and when he asked for an appointment he was told it would take six to eight weeks.

"I went to a B&Q and bought myself some glue, and since that point I've been using a type of Gorilla Glue to pin my teeth back in," he said, admitting it is not a healthy idea.

"And it works really well, they stay in for about five, six months, and then they pop out, then I just glue them back in again and away we go."

It comes as the Health and Social Care Committee's examination of NHS dentistry calls for "urgent and fundamental reform" and said there was evidence of pain and distress that is "totally unacceptable in the 21st century".

In one extreme case, reported by the BBC, a woman pulled out 13 of her own teeth. She was unable to get an NHS appointment due to where she lived in Bury St Edmunds, and could not afford to spend thousands having her teeth corrected.

Danielle Watts eventually managed to crowd fund a pair of dentures.

Conservative MP Steve Brine said hearing about someone in "such pain and distress" that they used pliers to pull out their teeth "demonstrates the crisis in NHS dental services".

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Ten per cent of people surveyed in a recent poll said they had attempted home dentistry
Ten per cent of people surveyed in a recent poll said they had attempted home dentistry. Picture: Alamy

The damning report cites a YouGov poll of 2,104 people across the UK conducted in March 2023.

It found 10% of people admitted to attempting "DIY dentistry". More than half (56%) of the group carried it out in the last year and 20% said they did so because they could not find an NHS dentist.

The survey also found 22% of people were not registered with a dentist, with 23% of those saying it is because they cannot afford treatment.

The committee received written evidence from more than 30 Healthwatch groups, with case studies provided by Healthwatch Lincolnshire highlighting how people had pulled problem teeth out with pliers, or been forced to make a five-hour round trip to see an NHS dentist.

People have been attempting to pull their teeth at home using pliers
People have been attempting to pull their teeth at home using pliers. Picture: Alamy

A roundtable hosted by the committee in June also heard accounts of patients extracting their own teeth at home, as well as people feeling isolated due to worsening oral health.

The report said there is a "significant regional variation" in access to NHS dentistry. Those affected most included people from deprived areas, people from ethnic minorities, homeless people, people with complex needs such as autism, and refugees.

It also claims freedom of information requests revealed the primary dental care underspend for 2022/23 was forecast to reach £400 million.

"The problem is compounded by people being unaware of what they're entitled to and a contract that is unfit for purpose when it comes to paying dentists for treating NHS patients."

The committee is now calling on the Government to ensure every person who needs an NHS dentist is able to access one a "reasonable distance" from their home and in a "reasonable time frame".

It is also calling for a dental workforce survey to be commissioned, as well as the roll-out of a patient information campaign to improve awareness of how NHS dentistry works.

Mr Brine added: "What's particularly frustrating is that recommendations made by our predecessor committee 15 years ago to reform the dental contract have still not been implemented.

"Yet contract reform alone is unlikely to bring back dentists who have already left the NHS or are considering leaving in the near future.

"We endorse the Government's ambition to ensure that everyone who needs an NHS dentist can access one. Belatedly, now is the time to deliver it."

Shawn Charlwood, chairman of the British Dental Association's General Dental Practice Committee, said the report is "an instruction manual to save NHS dentistry".

He added: "The real question now is whether government or opposition are ready to use it. Failure to act will condemn this service to oblivion."

Louise Ansari, chief executive at Healthwatch England welcomed the report.

She said: "Ultimately, only a fundamental and fully resourced dental contract reform can tackle these deep-seated problems, and we call on the Government to publish its dental recovery plan urgently.

"NHS dentistry is the second most common problem that the public report to Healthwatch, with more than 400 local reports from across England in the past three years exposing experiences of people suffering in pain, performing DIY dentistry and struggling to pay the costs of treatment."

An NHS spokesperson said: "While the number of dental appointments available for NHS patients is steadily increasing and the GP Patient Survey found seven out of 10 patients had a good overall experience of dental services, the NHS has already started to address some of these recommendations through initial contract changes last year.

"These significant reforms will continue to further support dental teams to carry out even more treatments and address the inevitable backlogs that built up during the pandemic, while record numbers of dentists, dental therapists and hygienists will be trained as part of the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan."

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