‘I’m always in pain’: Dental service issues ‘worsened’ by pandemic says health watchdog

Dental services have been worsened due to the coronavirus pandemic according to watchdogs Healthwatch Cambridgeshire.

Dental services have been worsened due to the coronavirus pandemic according to watchdogs Healthwatch Cambridgeshire. Picture: Quang Tri NGUYEN/Unsplash - Credit: Archant

Existing issues in the county’s dental services have “worsened”, according to watchdogs Healthwatch Cambridgeshire.

The Covid-19 lockdown and subsequent restrictions has meant the region’s dentists have only been able to see around a third of patients.

Healthwatch Cambridgeshire say social distancing, infection control and the need for PPE have contributed to issues in dental services.

Caroline Tyrrell-Jones, Healthwatch communities programme manager, said: “People’s experiences do show a very mixed picture across our area.

“We are in regular contact and they are working on a new dental strategy for the East of England to try and improve things.

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“We’re hopeful that a new approach can be found but unfortunately, this isn’t going to happen in the short-term.”

One Fenland resident confessed to carrying out a number of DIY dental operations after failing to get an appointment despite numerous attempts.

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They said: “I’ve been trying to get dental work for years now to the point I’ve had to remove several teeth by myself.

“No dentist locally has accepted NHS adult patients in the six years I’ve lived here.

“I’m always in pain and have to take excessive amounts of ibuprofen just to manage the pain and even then it only dulls the pain now not stops it.

“It’s affected my confidence massively and affects what I can do with my kids socially.”

Healthwatch Cambridgeshire say there has been a spike in calls to its information service from people trying to find an NHS dentist and get treatment.

It is Healthwatch’s job to listen to what people say about services and make sure this is heard and acted on by those running local services.

Nearly two years ago, it highlighted a shortage of NHS dentists or dental nurses in the region – particularly in Peterborough and Wisbech - and significant problems with recruitment, in its Finding a Dentist report.

Now, people across the county are experiencing problems because of the pandemic.

With fewer appointments available, priority is going to people with emergency or urgent problems.

Lack of dentistry for children is also an emerging problem, says Healthwatch.

One Cambridge resident said: “I have rung every single dentist in the area and no one will take me on as an NHS patient.

“I’m recently having trouble with my teeth and a private dentist just isn’t feasible for me as I’m an apprentice.”

Another added: “I seem unable to find an NHS dentist in Cambridge.

“I don’t have access to a car. Many of those listed as accepting NHS patients on the NHS website say they have no space. Some not until mid-late 2021.”

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