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Due to lack of access to healthcare, more and more Britons are pulling their own teeth

“It was too painful, I had no choice,” laments Caroline Pursey in front of the ITV News cameras on February 7.

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Due to lack of access to healthcare, more and more Britons are pulling their own teeth

“It was too painful, I had no choice,” laments Caroline Pursey in front of the ITV News cameras on February 7. The Englishwoman, originally from Scunthorpe, displays a sad smile... And toothless. Twelve of his teeth are missing. The sixty-year-old had been suffering from painful inflammation of the roof of her teeth for some time, but it was impossible to find an NHS dentist (the free public health service in the United Kingdom). “I was told there was a three-year wait,” she laments. Caroline Pursey therefore pulled out her decayed teeth alone, using pliers, not having the means to go to a private practice.

An extreme situation which is far from isolated in a context of general crisis in the NHS, weakened by a series of historic strikes over the past year and massive shortages of practitioners. More and more dentists are abandoning the public system in favor of private care, which is more remunerative and much more expensive. A study carried out by the British Dental Association (BDA) estimated that by 2022, 90% of dentists would no longer accept new patients at regulated public rates.

Many British people admit to trying to treat their teeth themselves. A report published in July 2023 by the British authorities highlighted the glaring flaws in the country's oral health system. “10% of British people say they treat their teeth themselves,” laments the report, which is based on a YouGov survey. “This is completely unacceptable in the 21st century,” continues the document, which highlights that one in five Britons is not registered with a private or public practice.

According to OECD data, the United Kingdom has 49 dentists per 100,000 inhabitants, the lowest rate among the G7 countries. NHS dental services are “at an almost terminal stage”, warned the think tank The Nuffield Trust in mid-December, cited by AFP. An observation corroborated by Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, who said last February on the BBC that dental care had been “hard hit by the pandemic. While services are improving - with 23% more treatments carried out last year compared to the previous year - we know that for far too many people, access to a dentist is not as easy as it should be. being".

In response, the British government unveiled on February 7 a system aimed at encouraging dentists to accept new patients and to set up in under-covered areas. Funded to the tune of £200 million (€235 million), this project would treat a million new patients who have not seen an NHS dentist for two years or more, paying practitioners a bonus " new patients” between 15 and 50 pounds. According to the NHS, the system could lead to more than 2.5 million additional appointments, including up to 1.5 million treatments in the next 12 months.

This project is, however, considered largely insufficient by specialist associations. “This recovery plan does not deserve its title,” responded Shawn Charlwood, president of the British Dental Association’s General Dental Practice Committee, to AFP. “It will not stop the exodus of staff nor bring hope to the millions of people who have difficulty accessing care,” he added.

“Too little, too late,” thundered the Toothless in England association to AFP. “Dental caries affects one in five young people, preventable oral cancers kill patients, and the terrifying stories of artisanal interventions do not come from the novels of Victor Hugo and Charles Dickens” in the 19th century, added the association for whom this This situation would never have occurred if governments had really been concerned about the issue since 2006. That year marked the adoption of a reform modifying the remuneration for dental procedures, making them less attractive for dentists.

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