As problems with NHS dentists grow, a charity intended to provide dentistry to third world countries has begun treating West Yorkshire patients.
Reports emerged that numerous patients where removing teeth with pliers, and thus Dentaid stepped in to assist with the situation.
The organisation claims that a decreasing number of NHS dentists, caused by reduced funding, is leaving vulnerable patients all over the country without any form of affordable dental care.
Increasingly, access to dentistry is as much of an issue as the cost.
Patients telephoning the NHS helpline intended to assign people a local dentist sometimes find themselves being encouraged to travel ridiculous distances.
In solidarity with Dentaid, the British Dental Association (BDA) agrees that the organisation has exposed “a very serious problem with the commissioning of dentistry” in England.
Dentaid began working in Dewsbury late last year, but this week has announced plans to expand its existing service into neighbouring Leeds and Huddersfield.
In the past week, four people in agony with toothache received emergency treatment from volunteer dentists including owner Nick O’Donovan and Ian Wilson, a colleague from Leeds.
Most of these individuals where unable to afford fees that were requisite in order to secure treatment.
Individuals reported being unable to pay fees charged by NHS dentists due to relatively low disposable income.
The BDA says it has received reports of people in the area pulling their own teeth out with pliers and called on the NHS to increase dentistry funding.
Henrik Overgaard-Nielsen of the BDA acknowledged the difficulties that many people face in securing NHS dental treatment.
“There are dentists that can do the work, but the NHS will simply not pay for it, and the patients we are talking about here do not have the money to pay privately for their dental treatment.”
Kathryn Hilliam, from NHS England, acknowledged that problems exist in West Yorkshire, but claimed that the organisation is working diligently in order to address the known dentistry issues.
“This work will then help shape the future commissioning of dental services in the area.”
The NHS website claims that “everyone should be able to access good-quality NHS dental services,” adding that “there is no need to register with a dentist in the same way as with a GP because you are not bound to a catchment area.”
Unfortunately, the changes that were enforced to dentistry in 2006 have ensured that dental practices are not obliged to deal with NHS patients whatsoever.