A staggering one in five (21%) 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 to describe people carrying out dental work on themselves or asking somebody else who is not a dentist.
The shock poll also revealed that over a fifth of Welsh people (22%) 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%) say they have stopped attempting to get an NHS dental appointment altogether as a result, while around a quarter say they have paid for private dental treatment (27%) or delayed seeing a dentist despite suffering with pain (26%).
The figures come after Welsh Government figures show that between 2020-21, there were 1,389 dentists with NHS activity recorded in Wales. This is a decrease of 5.6% from 2019-20 (or 83 fewer dentists). Across most health boards in Wales people are struggling to gain access to NHS dentistry with an investigation by WalesOnline in August this year showing only 3 out of 43 dental practices in Cardiff were accepting NHS patients.
In Newtown, the largest town in Powys, 2/4 of the town’s dental practices have closed over the summer, leaving just two dental practices to serve a population of around 18,000.
Commenting Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds MS 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.
“Years of failure and mismanagement by Welsh Labour is taking its toll. It’s no wonder there are big problems when the British Dental Association (BDA) has stated that Labour’s plans are not serving the population's oral health needs.
“Toothcare should not just be for those who can afford to pay privately but sadly we are seeing a real divide between those who can afford to go private and those who can’t.
"Everyone should be able to rely on swift and reliable dental care close to home. The Welsh Government must recruit more staff and boost rates paid for NHS procedures.
“I would also urge the Welsh Government to consider increasing the availability of dental therapists and nurses as well as allowing dental therapists to do more, to address the backlog of people who just need routine treatment.”