A man resorted to performing his own dentistry and ripping out a painful tooth after failing to get a dentist appointment on the NHS.
Chris Langston, 50, was in excruciating pain for six months as he tried to arrange an NHS dentist appointment to resolve the issue. His back molar had become loose, causing pain when eating, drinking and even talking.
Langston said he couldn’t afford the £90 private fee for tooth removals and that his nearest emergency dentist is more than 30 miles away. After months of pain he decided to take matters into his own hands, and used a pair of pliers to rip to tooth out in the bathroom of his home in Oswestry, Shropshire.
He said: “I’d been trying to get an appointment for around six months but I couldn't get one. Private dentists wanted £40 for the check up and another £40 or £50 for the removal. It was £80 or £90 for the extraction privately, and I couldn't afford that.
“It was around six months ago that I felt it go loose. It gradually got worse, you sort of leave it. I’ve never had a major toothache. As it got looser it was really painful. Every time I spoke or swallowed or drank or ate, it was agony. I wanted to go for an emergency dentist but that was a 60 mile round trip.
"I couldn’t get there with the kids. So I took the pliers."
Langston said he thought of the cost of going private and decided he "had to suck this up". He said: "A little tug and a pull down on the pliers and it was done. I wouldn’t recommend it. Not to anyone. It was horrible. It was just out of necessity at the time, it was the circumstances. I can imagine there's a dentist rolling their eyes reading this."
Langston, who runs metal detecting holidays, admitted he felt "weak at the knees" when he came out of the bathroom and nearly fainted. He said: "The kids were horrified. I did it in the bathroom, I nearly passed out, I was weak at the knees." But he added: "It’s impossible to get an NHS appointment in Oswestry and I’m still left without a dentist, I can’t afford to pay private. Fingers crossed everything stays in place so that I don’t have to get [the pliers] out again."
Since removing the tooth, Langston says his pain has reduced to a dull ache, but he is calling for the government to address the national dentistry crisis.
He said: "It should never have got to this stage where I was forced to pull out my own teeth. The government needs to do something urgently. It’s been like this in Oswestry for years. When I first moved here you could ring up and get an appointment in the afternoon. You can only get a same day appointment at an emergency dentist, but that’s 30 miles away. Private is out of my realm of affordability."
Britain's crisis in NHS dentistry was highlighted this week when hundreds of people queued up for days outside a dental practice in Bristol to register.
A parliamentary report published in July last year found that one in 10 Britons admitted to attempting their own dental work, and of those who said they had performed DIY dentistry most (56%) did so within the previous two years.
Where are England's 'dental deserts' with worst access to an NHS dentist?
The number of dentists providing NHS care in England fell from 23,733 at the end of 2020 to 21,544 at the end of January 2023, according to NHS figures obtained by the Association of Dental Groups (ADG) under Freedom of Information laws. So-called dental deserts were identified across the country.
The data named the area covered by the NHS clinical commissioning group (CCG) in North Lincolnshire as the part of England with the smallest number of NHS dentists per 100,000 people – just 32.
North East Lincolnshire and the East Riding of Yorkshire were joint second worst, with only 37 NHS dentists for every 100,000 people. Norfolk and Waveney are next, on 38.
The report also revealed that just 26.1% of adults in Thurrock in Essex had seen an NHS dentist in the previous two years – the lowest percentage in the country – followed by West Essex (27.3%) and then Kent and Medway (29.3%). Thurrock was also where the lowest proportion of children had seen an NHS dentist in the year leading up to January 2023 – just 30.7% – followed by north-east London (32.2%) and North Lincolnshire (35.3%).
Watch: Bristol teacher forced to glue his own dentures together due to dentist shortage