Page last updated at 00:11 GMT, Thursday, 12 February 2009

Millions 'opt for DIY dentistry'

Pliers
Not the best method of extracting a tooth

Millions of people in England have resorted to DIY dentistry, a survey by consumer magazine Which? suggests.

The poll, of 2,631 adults, found 8% had tried to fix their own dental problems - and a similar number knew somebody who had tried.

Of those who admitted trying the DIY approach, one in four had tried to pull out a tooth using pliers.

Since a new dental contract was introduced in 2006 there has been growing concern over access to care.

But the government said the findings of the survey were unreliable, and said access to NHS dentistry was improving.

While worries about accessing or paying for dental care can clearly be a concern, it really isn't advisable to resort to do-it-yourself care
Susie Sanderson
British Dental Association

Ministers have announced an independent review of NHS dentistry in England, which will report back later this year.

Which? will be making a submission to this review and is currently carrying out detailed research to build an accurate picture of the state of NHS dentistry.

The latest survey found 12% of those who had tried DIY techniques had tried to extract a tooth by using a piece of string tied to a door handle.

Some 30% of DIY dentists had tried to whiten their teeth with household cleaning products.

Other DIY procedures people admitted to included:

• Using household glue to stick down a filling or crown (11%)

• Popping an ulcer with a pin (19%)

• Trying to mend or alter dentures (8%)

• Trying to stick down a loose filling with chewing gum (6%)

Which? health campaigner, Jenny Driscoll, said: "This research shows the desperate measures people will resort to.

"Everyone should have access to good quality dental treatment so it's worrying to see so many people resorting to doing it themselves."

It is ludicrous to suggest that three million people are doing DIY dentistry
Barry Cockcroft
Chief dental officer for England

Susie Sanderson, of the British Dental Association, said: "While worries about accessing or paying for dental care can clearly be a concern, it really isn't advisable to resort to do-it-yourself care.

"We hear too many horror stories about people pulling out the wrong tooth, or causing themselves to have an infection, and urge anyone considering this path to think again. It is all too easy to make the problem worse, rather than solve it.

"If you are having trouble accessing NHS dental care then contact your local primary care trust."

Political reaction

Mike Penning, the shadow health minister, said: "It is a scandal that millions of people are resorting to pulling out their own teeth as a result of Labour's disastrous mismanagement of NHS dentistry.

"These survey results are a direct consequence of the introduction of Labour's botched dental contract which has left millions without an NHS dentist."

But Barry Cockcroft, the chief dental officer for England, gave the Which? survey very short shrift.

He said: "These findings come from an online multiple choice survey that has no statistical credibility. It is ludicrous to suggest that three million people are doing DIY dentistry.

"DIY dentistry is dangerous and unnecessary. Thanks to our investment of over £2bn in NHS dentistry, there are now lots of new NHS dental practices expanding and opening around the country."



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SEE ALSO
Review into NHS dentistry access
12 Dec 08 |  Health
Pros and cons of DIY dentistry
15 Oct 07 |  Magazine

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