London, Oct 15 (UNI) A major shortage of state-funded dentists in Britain has led to some of the patients pulling out their own teeth using 'do-it-yourself' techniques.
One in five patients has gone without treatment because of rising cost.
And of those who have registered with a private dentist, three-quarters did so only because their surgery stopped providing NHS treatment or they could not find an NHS dentist to register with.
A survey conducted on more than 5,200 patients and 750 dentists showed that patients were held up last night as evidence that new contracts for dentists brought in by the Government last year are failing the public.
''It's simply astonishing in this day and age that we have people pulling their own teeth out,'' Chairman of the Patients' Association and dentist Anthony Halperin was quoted as saying by Daily Mail.
''We were assured the contract would lead to a new type of preventive dentistry but it appears to have exchanged one treadmill for another,'' he said.
According to the survey, almost half of dentists are not accepting any more NHS patients, by 400 Patient and Public Involvement Forums based in each NHS trust area in England.
Six per cent of patients questioned said they had resorted to DIY treatment to avoid expensive dental bills.
This includes anything from using over-the-counter painkillers and salty water to combat an abscess to plugging a broken crown with chewing gum.
Others have resorted to more extreme measures. One patient in Lancashire claimed he had to ''remove 14 teeth using pliers''.
The survey is the largest study of public and professional views since the Government introduced a controversial new contract for dentists in England in April last year. Labour's reform of dental treatment aimed to simplify the system and give more patients the chance to register with an NHS dentist.
Many dentists have left the NHS claiming they are not paid properly for the amount of work they do.
Others say they have to see so many patients that they cannot give them an adequate service.
According to Government estimates, more than two million people who want NHS dentistry are unable to get it.