‘My teeth still hurt’: patients unable to get on to NHS dentists’ lists | Dentists

Maooz Awan, 29, PhD graduate, St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex

At the beginning of the pandemic I moved from London to Hastings, where I grew up. My bottom teeth were hurting, so I went to the local dentist and they said that because I hadn’t had an appointment in three years they’d taken me off their list, and they didn’t have any space for new NHS patients.

I checked the NHS website and looked up NHS-affiliated dental surgeries around me. I checked every one in Hastings, none of which were taking patients, and then farther and farther afield, up to Eastbourne, 20 miles away. There was nothing, so I just sort of gave up. I asked to be put on waiting lists and was told by several practices that they didn’t have one. The only other option was to go private, but I didn’t have the money to do that. I’m willing to travel but I just haven’t found anywhere to register yet.

I haven’t been to the dentist for six years now. I didn’t bother changing my dentist in Hastings when I was living in London, and it was a pain trying to get an appointment. My bottom teeth still hurt. It’s not debilitating, but I assume it’s something I should get looked at. I look after my teeth as well as I can, but if you don’t get them checked over for a few years, I assume problems will inevitably develop. It’s very frustrating.

Linda, 68, retired, Surrey

I called my NHS dentist to ask for an emergency appointment for a broken tooth in January, but they said they would call me back. The receptionist told me they had to speak to the dentist because I hadn’t been for two years – which was because of the pandemic. A week later I received a call, but within a couple of days of first reporting it, my tooth had flared up really badly and the whole of my face was swollen. It looked horrendous and I could barely speak or eat and drink anything. I couldn’t really open my mouth, it was so bad.

I had to call 111 and get an emergency appointment with another, private dentist five miles away, who prescribed me strong antibiotics, which I took for about a week. They couldn’t look at the tooth because the area had become so infected and swollen and I couldn’t open my mouth. The medication made me feel quite rough and I was feeling bad as it was. What really frightened me was that the dentist said if the swelling gets any worse and you can’t breathe, ring 999.

Once I heard back from my dentist and explained what had happened, they booked an appointment and said they would arrange for me to have the tooth out. About a month later, the tooth had finally been removed. I was just glad to get rid of it after the pain I’d suffered. But without the delay, I might have avoided the infection.

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