11m Brits were unable to get an NHS dentist appointment last year

A kick in the teeth: 11MILLION Brits were unable to get an NHS dentist appointment last year – leaving some to pull out their own teeth

  • The number of Brits struggling to get NHS appointments is up from 4m in 2019
  • Health and Social Care Committee has launched an inquiry into crisis 
  • Appointment issues have also led to a rise in dangerous ‘DIY dentistry’

Roughly 11million people in England failed to get an NHS dentist appointment last year, shock data suggests.

Industry leaders warned today the figures — amounting to around one in four adults — show the decaying dental industry ‘is running out of road’.

Desperate Brits have had to resort to using shoelaces and pliers to pull out their own rotting teeth. 

Experts fear the crisis, which began before Covid kicked off, will only get worse. 

Thousands of NHS dentists quit during Covid, and industry polls suggest even more are considering going fully private in the near future.

This chart shows the number of dentists who carried out NHS activity each year, the figure dropped sharply during the Covid pandemic but has slightly recovered to just over 24,000 according to the latest data

This has left people with no choice but to pay huge private fees, go without, or do dangerous DIY procedures. Some have even flown overseas for treatment.

The British Dental Association (BDA) today called on the Government and opposition ‘commit’ to action to reform the ‘broken’ service.

A ‘discredited’ contract system is fuelling the crisis, according to the organization. 

It is now being investigated by the Health and Social Care Committee.

How much does NHS dentistry cost?

There are 3 NHS charge bands:

Band 1: £23.80

Covers an examination, diagnosis and advice. If necessary, it also includes X-rays, a scale and polish, and planning for further treatment.

Band 2: £65.20

Covers all treatment included in Band 1, plus additional treatment, such as fillings, root canal treatment and removing teeth (extractions).

Band 3: £282.80

Covers all treatment included in Bands 1 and 2, plus more complex procedures, such as crowns, dentures and bridges.

For comparison, check-ups can cost between £20 and £120 at private dentists, according to Which?.

Dentures and bridges can also cost up to £2,520, the consumer watchdog says.

Dentists argue that under the current contract, it is no longer financially viable to offer NHS procedures because of a lack of Government investment.  

BDA analysis of the 2022 NHS GP Survey suggests the number of Brits struggling to see an NHS dentist is up seven million, on the four million recorded in 2019.

This accounts for almost one in four adults in England.

Some 6million adults ‘tried and failed’ to get an NHS dentist appointment, while 3.6million did not try ‘believing an appointment would not be available’, they said. 

Another 1million people were also put off by the cost of NHS dental charges, with 500,000 others reported to be stuck on waiting lists.  

The BDA said: ‘Both the government and the opposition need to step up and offer a plan.’

A spokesperson added: ‘Patients are struggling to get NHS appointments and are also being put off by the fear of either not getting an appointment or the cost.

‘All parties need to commit to reverse these trends. 

‘That must begin with commitments to reform of the discredited NHS dental contract, underpinned by adequate investment.’

The General Dental Practice Committee chair, Shawn Charlwood said: ‘Every day a broken system remains in force we lose dentists, while millions struggle to access care. 

‘This crisis won’t be fixed with soundbites or tweaks at the margins. To turn the corner, we need a plan based on real reform and fair funding.’

He added: ‘NHS dentistry is running out of road.’  

Figures obtained by MailOnline last month also show that some areas of England have only one dental practice offering NHS treatments for every 13,000 people.

Antony Watson (pictured above) from Bridlington, had to order a £3.99 next day delivery at home dental repair kit to fix his broken tooth

Alex Gray, from Lincolnshire (pictured above), was also forced to pull out six of his teeth on his own, after failing to find an NHS dentist

Nationally, there was only one NHS dental practice for every 4,975 people at the start of 2023. 

The figures, by LG inform — a database ran by the Local Government Association (LGA), show England’s worst-affected borough – Bolsover, Derbyshire – had around 57 times more people for every dental practices than in the area with best access, City of London.

According to the latest figures from NHS Digital on NHS dental activity, two-thirds of people in England also haven’t seen a dentist in two years.

Just 16.4million people had a check-up between June 2020 — in the early days of the pandemic — and June 2022, equivalent to 36.9 per cent of the population. 

Read more: Is YOUR area a ‘dental desert’? Use our fascinating interactive map to find out as shock data shows up to 13k patients compete for ONE NHS dentist practice in England’s worst-affected areas


One of those forced to take matters into their own hands was Antony Watson, of Bridlington in Yorkshire.

Mr Watson originally broke his tooth 20 years ago with dentists giving him a crown at the time.

But he damaged it a second time after biting into a cookie.

He said he couldn’t book an NHS appointment because he isn’t registered with any clinic and ‘definitely couldn’t afford’ to pay for private treatment ‘on the spot’, forcing him to look elsewhere for a solution.

Mr Watson searched online for home delivery dentistry kits and chose the £3.99 kit because of its next day delivery perk.

The kit contained a 20g bag of plastic beads, which then melted using boiling water and fashioned to fit the shape of your damaged teeth.

Meanwhile, Alex Gray, from Lincolnshire, was also forced to pull out six of his teeth on his own, after failing to find an NHS dentist.

The retired roofer has been unable to find an NHS dentist after moving to Lincolnshire six years ago. 

When a tooth ‘starts to fall out’, he takes painkillers he said, and ‘waits until it goes numb’, before using just pliers to try and extract it.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said today: ‘We are working to improve access to NHS dental care by investing more than £3 billion a year in dentistry for all NHS patients but we know there is more to do.

‘We have enabled NHS dental practices to deliver an extra 10 per cent of NHS care on top of their contracts to improve patient access and recently completed work to remove barriers and support dental team members such as therapists and hygienists to work to their full skill set in the NHS.’

They added: ‘The number of dentists practicing in the NHS increased by over 500 last year and we recently implemented reforms to provide fairer pay for practices to take on high needs patients also.’

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