Many people are now trying desperately to get dental appointments after being stuck without access to dental services following the chaotic past 14 months. However, a recent report from Healthwatch England has shown that some people in England could end up waiting three years to get an appointment.
Many people have been shielding and unable to attend the dentist in the past 14 months, even for emergency treatment. Many have been putting up with dental problems throughout lockdown; some have even tried to administer dental treatment to themselves! According to the watchdog, this led to one person overdosing on painkillers and ending up in hospital.
While many may have thought that the end of the Covid-19 lockdown would enable them to get dental treatment, dental surgeries have said they have thousands of people on their lists. For many people, this means they cannot get the dental care they need despite ringing one surgery after another to try and get an appointment.
Some people being offered private dental treatment
The Healthwatch England report highlighted that some are being offered private dental care by the same surgeries telling them to wait three years for NHS care.
Patients have said they feel under pressure to pay for treatment they can get on the NHS because they have urgent problems that need addressing. Healthwatch England claims dental surgeries now seem to be focusing more on private care, leaving many who cannot afford to pay suffering dental problems.
The watchdog's “State of Dentistry” report highlighted several further issues. One of these was that some people were being removed from waiting lists for not having made an appointment for a long time, leaving them in a position where they cannot get onto another list because of the backlog.
Another issue highlighted was repeated cancelled appointments by dentists, which was occurring even part-way through treatment. The fact dentists now have thousands on their waiting lists was highlighted as a huge issue, made worse because some cannot even get themselves onto a dental waiting list in the first place.
Other problems highlighted by the watchdog included dental practices deciding to go entirely private and patients being told there is a six-week wait for emergencies on top of the three-year wait for a regular appointment.
Risky measures being taken by health officials
The Healthwatch England report went on to say that some patients who called NHS 111 for advice were being told to gargle with salt water until they could obtain dental assistance. Others who have sought help from dental health service providers have been prescribed antibiotics but no treatment to deal with the root cause. Some have even been advised to use DIY filling kits at home if they cannot get an appointment.
There are now concerns that many people will fail to get the dental treatment they need, which will affect other aspects of their health. This is due to both a lack of affordability and restricted access to dental services based on the current situation.