A survey of the state of the UK dentistry by the Commission for Patient and Public Involvement in Health (CPPIH) shows a fifth of the 5,212 patients polled had used a private dentist.
A fifth of patients have missed treatment because of the cost and some six per cent of patients are treating themselves – with one person from Lancashire claiming to have removed 14 teeth with pliers. Other examples of home dentistry included superglue to fix a crown and clove oil with Polyfilla to fill a tooth.
A half of private patients left the NHS as their dentist stopped treating NHS patients. Just 15 per cent opted for private treatment for better care and 29 per cent of patients go private, as they cannot find an NHS dentist. Some 93 per cent of those receiving NHS car were happy with treatment.
Problems over NHS dentistry have been linked to changes to the contract for dentists. A total of 58 per cent of the 750 dentists quizzed said new contracts worsened the quality of care, while 84 per cent said the changes made booking an appointment more difficult.
One dentist polled said: "There is no incentive in the contract to take on new patients who often have high needs. I feel the contract discriminates against people who probably need me most."
Sharon Grant, chair of the CPPIH, says, "The NHS dental system is letting many patients down very badly. It appears many are being forced to go private because they don't want to lose their current trusted and respected dentist or because they just can't find a local NHS dentist. There are issues here that have been fudged for too long. Is NHS dentistry just for those who can't afford anything else? – or can it revert to a universal, affordable, service to which people have entitlement as citizens and taxpayers?"