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2:27 PM February 3, 2022
Patients, including children, have turned up at a charity-run dental clinic in desperation after being unable to find an NHS dentist.
People lined up from 6.30am in Bury St Edmunds today, February 3, to be seen by Dentaid volunteers at its free emergency clinic.
The charity has returned to the town to provide urgent treatment at the request of Bury St Edmunds councilors and the Toothless campaign group in England.
It follows yesterday’s visit to Leiston, which lost its two NHS dental practices.
Vernon Holden, 54, of Red Lodge, had two teeth removed at the clinic, following two extractions at the city’s Dentaid service in November.
He said he had been in pain for over two months.
“Why should we rely on charity – they do brilliant work – but why?
“If I hadn’t been treated, it could have gotten worse.”
He said he had tried more than 30 dental practices, as far away as Clacton, and had been unable to sign up.
Emma Johnson, 24, who works in retail, had traveled from Thetford to be seen, adding that she had been ‘tempted’ to tend to the tooth herself.
She said: “I’ve been in a lot of pain for quite a while and I’m not registered anywhere.
“And I try to work while talking to customers every day and it’s not a great experience.”
In the five years she has lived in Thetford, she has not been able to register on the books of an NHS dental practice.
Jill Harding, communications director for Dentaid, said 48 people had been seen at the clinic by early afternoon, which appeared to be a new high for the charity for one day.
She said some of the patients were children.
Councilor Diane Hind said relying on clinics run by charities to fill the gap in the provision of NHS dental care was unsustainable in the future.
“It’s a travesty and it shouldn’t be happening in the modern age that people have to do this.”
She added: “We must keep the pressure on. Lords and masters must be ashamed. This is what is happening in England today.”
Councilor Donna Higgins said she had heard more than one person say she pulled her teeth.
She said: “There are two aspects to this: the emergency care that is not being provided to people and also the preparation for it – education, constant monitoring. Prevention is lacking.”
Councilors used their local funding to pay for this Dentaid visit.
Earlier, a government spokesperson said: “Work is ongoing on dental contract reform. We are working with partners, including the British Dental Association, to find alternative ways to order services and to make the NHS a more attractive place to work for dentists.