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‘DIY dentistry’ provokes MP outburst

Department of Health urged to monitor whether patients are treating themselves at home

The Department of Health (DH) is being urged to monitor whether patients are treating themselves at home – because of high dental fees and problems with emergency care.

Labour described reports in one national newspaper – claiming some people were pulling out teeth with pliers and using household glue to stick down fillings – as ‘shocking’.

The party tabled parliamentary questions, to establish whether patients were resorting to ‘home remedies’ – but was told the DH ‘does not hold this information’.

Jamie Reed, a Labour health spokesman, alleged that patients requiring urgent dental treatment were being let down by the ‘shambolic’ NHS 111 service.

And he said: ‘Reports that people are having to resort to home dentistry remedies are genuinely shocking.

‘Ministers are suggesting the NHS 111 service should be used to signpost people to urgent dental services, but the shambolic roll-out has left patients in need waiting for hours.

‘In parliament last week, the government admitted in answer to me that they didn’t know if 111 would be ready to be rolled out – even though this is due to happen in four weeks.

‘The government’s response on this issue demonstrates a high level of complacency and ministers need to ensure that those needing urgent dentistry services can access them.’

Last month, the Sunday Express reported a sharp increase in sales of dental kits at pharmacies, including chemicals to whiten teeth.
It claimed that up to 200,000 ‘DIY dentists’ were risking injuries to themselves, while missing out on potentially life-saving check-ups.

And it reported that as many as 500,000 patients have been wrongly told by their dentist they must pay privately for treatment that should be available on
the NHS.

But, in reply to Labour, health minister Dan Poulter said: ‘There should be no need for anyone to resort to home remedies for dental problems, rather than seeking national health service care.’

The minister said anyone seeking urgent care, who was unable find an NHS dentist, should ‘contact the relevant NHS local area team’.

And he said: ‘As well as ensuring those who need it can get urgent care, the government is committed to ensuring those who seek it can access regular
dental care.

‘More than 29.8 million people were seen by an NHS dentist in the 24-month period ending 31 March 2013. Over a million and a quarter more people have been seen by an NHS dentist since May 2010.
‘The government is committed to increasing access to NHS dentistry and recently invested an additional £30 million of in-year funding in order to achieve this.’
 

by Rob Merrick, parliamentary correspondent

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