‘A huge problem’: Fears for Teessiders facing DIY dentistry as new investigation launched

Troubles finding solace from excruciating dental problems are to be examined in detail amid worries Teessiders are suffering. DIY dentistry and struggles accessing a place at an NHS dentist have already seen pleas for the Government to do more.

Now Middlesbrough Council’s health scrutiny panel will take a closer look at dentistry in the town on the back of growing concers. Past meetings have heard problems accessing NHS dentists have seen some patients pulling their own teeth out – or spending 20 times the amount on private treatment compared to NHS treatment.

Figures presented to a recent Tees Valley health scrutiny panel showed more than one in 10 calls to the 111 health line were seeking dental help. Tuesday’s health panel agreed dentistry deserved investigating in the borough on the back of problems faced.

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Cllr Dorothy Davison said there were “huge problems” signing on with an NHS dentist in Middlesbrough. South Tees public health chief Mark Adams believed there was an issue – and the NHS was working through it.

He added: “I live in Darlington, not Middlesbrough, but it’s difficult to access a dentist and I quite often get councillors asking me to facilitate access to dentistry for families struggling to.” Dental care responsibility sits with NHS England at the moment – but commissioning for dental services is set to move to the new upcoming “Integrated Care Boards” as part of another NHS shake up.

Labour group leader Cllr Matt Storey backed a closer examination of dental services. He said: “I know from my work with the MP that getting registered with an NHS dentist is a major problem across Middlesbrough.”

Proposals for three Middlesbrough dentists to be merged into one site also sparked a reaction with the panel. Earlier this year, {my} dentist revealed it was proposing to move their Middlesbrough practices on Cargo Fleet Lane, Marton Road and Martonside Way to a new site at Cleveland Retail Park.

Cllr Storey added: “Provision is changing and I think it would be quite interesting to try and get some picture of how dental services are provided, and what can be done to make sure gaps are filled. I do feel like it’s putting a lot of stress on local people.

“When you read some of the stuff about DIY dentistry people are having to do at home, it really is quite worrying to see.” A survey by Healthwatch at the turn of the year showed 80% of those asked across the North-east had found it “very difficult” to find a dentist able to see them – with waiting lists at some practices for new NHS patients stretching up to a year.

A quarter of patients said they were still waiting for a routine check-up and even those who were already on the books had long waits for a check-up – some facing waits which had gone on for more than three years. One person surveyed told of a 70-mile round trip from Hartlepool to Newcastle, while a Middlesbrough resident told of a fruitless pursuit for a dentist in Billingham, Hartlepool, Redcar, Stockton and Yarm.

The health scrutiny panel will meet again next month.

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