Access crisis forces patients to turn to DIY dentistry, reveals new poll

23 September 2022

One in five (21 per cent) people who failed to get an NHS dentist appointment in the past year have turned to DIY dentistry, a new poll commissioned by the Liberal Democrats has revealed.

DIY dentistry is the phrase used to describe people carrying out dental work on themselves or asking somebody else who is not a dentist. 

The poll also discovered that almost a quarter of all Brits tried to get a local NHS dentist appointment in the last year but couldn’t get one.

Amongst those who said they have tried but couldn’t get an NHS dentist appointment in their local area in the last 12 months, three in ten (31 per cent) say they have stopped attempting to get an NHS dental appointment altogether. Around a quarter said they have paid for private dental treatment (27 per cent) or delayed seeing a dentist despite suffering with pain (26 per cent).

Almost a quarter (23 per cent) of people have tried and failed to get an NHS dental appointment in their local area over the past twelve months. Those in London (28 per cent) and the rest of the South East (28 per cent) are most likely to say they have tried but could not get an NHS dentist appointment in their local area. One in four in Scotland (25 per cent) and more than one in five in Wales (22 per cent) also failed in getting an NHS dentist appointment. 

The Liberal Democrats are calling on the government to announce an NHS winter rescue package this week now that parliament has returned. It comes amid dangerously long ambulance waiting times, almost seven million people stuck on NHS waiting lists, and many suffering in pain due to a lack of NHS dental appointments.

The Liberal Democrats are also urging the government to prioritise recruiting more NHS staff (including dentists), increasing hospital bed capacity, and ensuring social care finally receives the funding it desperately needs. 

Daisy Cooper MP, health spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats said, “It is now or never to save our NHS from a winter of crisis that will put patients at risk. This heartbreaking rise in DIY dentistry is further evidence that this government simply doesn’t care about our vital local health services. It is a national scandal that people are forced to pull their own teeth out because our public health services have been starved of funding. 

“It is one health crisis after another with this Conservative government. NHS services are crumbling after years of failure and mismanagement by Conservative ministers.

“This has to be the week that ministers finally clean up their mess and set out a plan to get the people, beds and buildings that our health and social care services desperately need and which the British public deserve. 

We need to see an urgent plan to recruit more staff, increase the number of available beds and once and for all invest in crumbling buildings. Anything less will let dangerous waiting times spiral even further out of control.”

"DIY dentistry has no place in a wealthy, 21st century nation" says Eddie Crouch British Dental Association chair, "but today millions have no options, and some are taking matters into their own hands.

"These access problems are not inevitable. This horror show is the direct result of choices made in Westminster."