I had to pull ELEVEN of my own teeth because I couldn’t see a dentist

CHILDREN’S lives are spoiled by the ordeal of having rotten teeth – some even need dentures.

There are now adults who pull out their own grinders because of “tooth devastation” and don’t get appointments.

Danielle Watt took matters into her own hands with extractions


Danielle Watt took matters into her own hands with extractionsPhoto credit: East Anglia News Service
Gaps in NHS dental care will leave some children suffering


Gaps in NHS dental care will leave some children sufferingPhoto credit: Getty
Billy Taylor used forceps to extract a tooth watched by son Leo


Billy Taylor used forceps to extract a tooth watched by son LeoPhoto credit: SWNS

The state of dental care in the UK has reached a critical juncture.

Danielle Watt, 42, of Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, took matters into her own hands when gum disease forced her to pull 11 of her own rotten teeth out of their sockets.

She had tried for six years and failed to get herself and her two children, Oscar, 12, and Eliza, 8, on the list of an NHS dentist.

Danielle said: “I would torture myself if they kept getting wobbly until they died. Then I could squeeze them out.

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“I’ve tried so hard to find an NHS dentist but there’s nobody out there.”

Covid has only made things worse, as found out by Billy Taylor, 33, of Axminster, Devon. He reached for a pair of pliers – and a few shots of whiskey – earlier this month when his toothache became “excruciating”.

His son Leo, 11, had to be careful not to faint.

He said: “I had a toothache before the bank holiday weekend. It was getting worse and worse. The pain was excruciating.

“Then on Tuesday my face started to swell up and I had migraines on that side. It got really bad that night and I was like, ‘Why don’t I just do it myself?’.”

The pandemic has wreaked havoc on dental hygiene.

“Disgraceful Inequalities”

Aside from putting people at risk of decayed teeth, diseases go undiagnosed.

Diabetes, cancer, eating disorders, heart disease and high blood pressure are first detected in the mouth.

James Goolnik of Bow Lane Dental Group in London said: “As a dentist I don’t just see the signs of cavities and gum disease.

“I look for abnormalities and early signs of disease in the throat, muscles and cervical glands.”

An estimated 2,000 dentists resigned in 2021, leaving around four million people without access to NHS care. Children in particular suffer from this.

dr Mervyn Druian, a former NHS dentist who is now in private practice, told The Telegraph that NHS dentistry for children “is a scandal that has been ignored”.

He added: “In 35 years I’ve never known it so badly. Adolescents will grow up with missing teeth and will wear dentures to replace them.

“It is tragic that a first world country would provide a dental service that would embarrass a third world country.”

4 million people do not have access to an NHS dentist.

Dentaid, a charity that treats patients in the developing world, was previously brought in by Trinity Academy Grammar School in Halifax, West Yorks, to treat students with poor dental hygiene.

Principal Charlie Johnson said: “We had to take students to the hospital because their tooth decay was so bad.”

A lack of NHS appointments prompted a family to fly 6,000 miles to Brazil to have their teeth checked.

Stuart Woodmansey, from Market Weighton, East Yorks, told The Sun that he had not been able to get an appointment “for years” and that his Brazilian-born wife Kedma and their son Jacob, two, were unable to register with a local NHS dentist. A flight to Sao Paulo was her only option.

Stuart Woodmansey, his wife Kedma and son Jacob had to seek dental treatment abroad


Stuart Woodmansey, his wife Kedma and son Jacob had to seek dental treatment abroadCredit: Roland Leon

They are just a family at the mercy of “tooth deserts”, areas where so many practices have closed or stopped treating NHS patients that people unable to pay privately are unable to access healthcare.

In England, 78.8 per cent of NHS dentists are not taking on new pediatric patients, while 86.3 per cent are not taking on new adult patients.

In Scotland, patients face excruciating wait times – some as long as 12 months for an appointment.

The British Dental Association has warned that “80 per cent of Scottish dentists are planning to cut their NHS commitments”.

In April, Jackie Baillie, Scottish Labor Covid recovery and health spokesperson, said that the crisis ‘devouring’ NHS dentistry in Scotland has resulted in a ‘two-tier system, leaving behind those who cannot seek private care can afford”.

For many, we have neglected our teeth over the past two years. A New One Poll study commissioned by Colgate found that a third of us are suffering from oral health issues during lockdown, and 36 per cent said they have often forgotten to brush their teeth.

The dentist dr. Hanna Kinsella says the pandemic has led to a huge drop in oral health, adding: “Everyone’s routine has been thrown into disarray. Brushing your teeth is part of your daily routine.

“You wake up, get ready for work or school, and brush your teeth.

“But suddenly a lot of people were waking up or sleeping in at different times. They didn’t get dressed or leave the house.

“As a result, dentists have seen so many problems, particularly inflamed and bleeding gums, which can be a warning sign of gum disease.”

Laura Mills worked as a community nurse during the pandemic and was so exhausted when she got home that she went straight to bed without brushing her teeth.

The 35-year-old from Sheffield says her grooming has been declining and by the time she went to see a dentist she was in a lot of pain.

She said: “Sometimes in lockdown I only brushed my teeth once a week or every ten days.

“It might even have been every two weeks, which is embarrassing to admit.

“I worked late and worked overtime on days off.”

Before the pandemic, Laura had always taken good care of her teeth.

She said: “I went to the biannual check-ups, I cleaned every day and I didn’t eat too much sugary food.

“But when Covid hit, I let myself go. I ate garbage, lots of sweets and sugary drinks.

“My diet was terrible. I gained weight and everything started to affect my teeth.”

“I needed seven fillings”

Laura started suffering from a toothache in January 2021 but was so busy that she put off visiting the dentist.

She finally made an appointment in November when her mouth was so sore that she had trouble eating.

She said: “It was so bad I didn’t eat or drink. I needed seven fillings and one extraction as my teeth were in such condition.”

It cost Laura around £200 to get her teeth fixed with the NHS and she now uses a special prescription toothpaste to fight tooth decay.

“It doesn’t matter how busy you are, you need to brush your teeth. I found out the hard way.”

Claire Morton let her oral hygiene routine slip during lockdown and when she finally saw a dentist in June 2021, X-rays showed she needed seven fillings.

The 45-year-old from Liverpool said the change in routine meant she often forgot to brush her teeth.

She has also been busy homeschooling her children Josh, 13, and Daniela, 11.

The health coach and meditation teacher, who also has 23-year-old stepdaughter Elle, said: “Before Covid I used to brush my teeth three times a day.

“But then suddenly we weren’t going anywhere or meeting anyone. During the day I homeschooled the kids and tried to run my business online.

“I brushed my teeth a lot less than usual.”

During the first lockdown, a large filling fell out while Claire was eating a candy and she was unable to get it fixed as dentists were closed.

She said: “It made me aware of what the kids were eating but I wasn’t worried about myself.

“I made sure they kept cleaning and didn’t eat too much sugar.

“But there I drank wine that was full of sugar, ate biscuits and laced my tea with sugar.”

Early last year, Claire’s mouth began to hurt and she noticed her teeth were turning yellow.

She said: “My mouth was sore from the decay but it was still quite difficult to get an appointment as a lot of dentists had a backlog.”

All dental practices were closed for three months in March 2020 and only emergency appointments were available.

Millions of patients have not seen themselves since before the pandemic, and some are now waiting three years.

The Great British Oral Health Report, released in January, found that 53 per cent of us have not seen a dentist in the past year and one in five have attempted self-medication at home – some resorting to DIY extractions.

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Laura Mills was too exhausted to brush her teethCredit: LAURA MILLS
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dr Kinsella said the NHS was under “a lot” of pressure and it had been difficult for people to be seen. Some, like Claire, have been forced to remain private.

She paid around £1,000 for her fillings and said: “I finally feel like I can smile without worrying about everyone looking at my terrible teeth.”

Claire Morton's dental health deteriorated during the pandemic - she ended up needing seven fillings


Claire Morton’s dental health deteriorated during the pandemic – she ended up needing seven fillingsCredit: Clare Morton I had to pull ELEVEN of my own teeth because I couldn’t see a dentist

Sarah Y. Kim

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