Data from the Epilepsy Society shows that half of people who have suffered dental injuries during a seizure have not had them repaired because they can’t afford the treatment. Sixty-nine per cent had broken or chipped teeth, 61 per cent had painful jaws, and 31 per cent had lost teeth.
And for many, that means living without the teeth they have lost.
The Epilepsy Society’s ‘Fix It For Free’ campaign is calling on the NHS to provide free dental repairs to teeth damaged as a result of seizures.
Clare Pelham, chief executive at the Epilepsy Society, said, "If a person breaks their nose, or their arm or leg as a result of a seizure, the injury will be repaired for free on the NHS. But if they break their teeth – and many with epilepsy do – they are expected to foot the bill themselves or get by without their teeth.
“When someone is too scared to smile because half their teeth are missing, they instantly lose their self-confidence, stop going out, withdraw into themselves and become isolated. Teeth are not an optional cosmetic accessory, they are an intrinsic part of who we are and how we communicate with one another.”
Clare added, “There are 200,000 people in the UK with uncontrolled seizures. When they crash to the ground without warning, the NHS must be there to pick up the pieces, literally. We all know the NHS is struggling, but the financial burden should not fall on people who are already coping with a debilitating disability. We must all do what we can to support the NHS. But it is not right to stand back and watch people with epilepsy shoulder the cost alone in broken teeth and shattered self-confidence.”
Conor Holgate, a 28-year-old young dad from Dorset, has just had six teeth extracted due to damage caused by his epileptic seizures. But while he was able to have the broken and damaged teeth removed at a capped price on the NHS, the health service will not fund replacement teeth for the father of three.
Conor said, “It is completely unfair. The damage to my teeth is through no fault of my own. It is because of my epilepsy. Why should someone like me, who has damaged numerous teeth during seizures, be punished for my disability?”
Conor is not alone.
Toby, a 26-year-old from Hampshire, has lost his two upper front teeth, chipped teeth on either side of his mouth and lost his fillings as a result of his seizures. He said, “I am angry that I am forced to pay for repairs to my damaged teeth that I have no control over. My teeth are ruined. I don’t want my confidence to be ruined too. I won't smile around people at the moment as I'm scared.”
The NHS offers a number of payment exemptions for dental treatment, but there are currently no medical exemptions. The NHS Low Income Scheme covers costs for some people, but 76 per cent of respondents to the Epilepsy Society survey said they were not eligible.
Hayley Maloney’s teeth are especially vulnerable to fractures or breaks during a seizure and has been quoted £4,500 to repair the damage. She commented, “When my teeth break during a seizure, I have no choice but to go to the emergency dentist. All they do is pull the teeth out – there is no way for me to get the treatment I need through the NHS.
“It isn’t fair. My injuries are because of my epilepsy. The damage to my teeth leaves me in extreme physical discomfort and feeling self-conscious.”
The charity has launched a petition that has attracted 16,500 signatures and is urging supporters to write to their MP to raise awareness and ask for help with the campaign. It is also asking people with epilepsy to share their experiences of NHS dentistry, as 80 per cent of survey respondents raised concerns about their dentist’s awareness of the condition and over half reported struggles with long waiting lists.
For more information visit https://epilepsysociety.org.uk/FixIt4Free