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Major concerns raised over the rise of ‘DIY dentistry’

Increasing numbers of Britons have been resorting to carrying out dental procedures on themselves, due to an inability to afford the cost of professional treatment.

In fact, a survey by the British Dental Health Foundation (BDHF) has found that up to 20 per cent of people would remove a friend’s tooth if asked, or allow a friend to remove one of theirs, if they felt they couldn’t afford dental charges.

Another avenue is the use of of over-the-counter dental first aid kits, which are intended to deal with lost fillings or crowns until a proper dentist’s appointment can be made. However, some cash-strapped individuals are using them as an alternative to professional treatments, according to leading dental health charities.

Despite these reports, the Department of Health (DoH) insists that the evidence for rising DIY dentistry is “purely anecdotal”, and say that official figures show that more people than ever are receiving NHS dental treatment, which is normally free of charge for those receiving state benefits, and heavily discounted for those on low incomes.

However, it is possible that these statistics are missing the scale of the problem, as they are collected by NHS dental and GP practices, where many of these DIY dentists are unlikely to be found.

As John Wildman, professor of health economics at Newcastle University, explained: “People at the lower end of the distribution curve – on big housing estates in the north-east, for instance – are effectively completely unreported. They don’t take part in surveys and they don’t go into GP surgeries

Regardless of the prevalence of the practice, the BDHF’s chairman Nigel Carter advised strongly against taking a DIY approach, saying: “There are too many senseless examples of people either pulling out the wrong tooth or ending up with an infection.

“It is all too easy to make the problem worse, which could result in more invasive and expensive treatment, so I urge those considering self-treatment to think again.”

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