'Why should we have to rely on charity?' - patients finally see a dentist

Emma Johnson who had come from Thetford for the Dentaid clinic in Bury St Edmunds

Emma Johnson who had come from Thetford for the Dentaid clinic in Bury St Edmunds - Credit: Mariam Ghaemi

Patients including children have turned up at a charity-run dental clinic in desperation after being unable to get an NHS dentist.

People queued from 6.30am in Bury St Edmunds today, February 3, to be seen by Dentaid's volunteers at its free emergency clinic.

The charity has come back to the town to deliver urgent treatment at the request of Bury St Edmunds Town Councillors and the Toothless in England campaign group.

It follows yesterday's visit to Leiston, which lost both its NHS dental practices. 

Vernon Holden from Red Lodge had been in toothache for more than two months.

Vernon Holden from Red Lodge had been in toothache for more than two months. He had two teeth out at the Dentaid clinic - Credit: Mariam Ghaemi

Vernon Holden, 54, from Red Lodge, had two teeth removed at the clinic, following two extractions at the Dentaid service in the town in November.

He said he had been in pain for more than two months.

"Why should we have to rely on charity - they do a brilliant job - but why?

"If I hadn't got this treated, it could have got worse."

He said he had tried more than 30 dental practices, as far away as Clacton, and had been unable to get registered.

Emma Johnson said she had been tempted to do something herself about her painful tooth 

Emma Johnson said she had been tempted to do something herself about her painful tooth - Credit: Mariam Ghaemi

Emma Johnson, 24, who works in retail, had travelled from Thetford to be seen. She said she had been "tempted" to see to the tooth herself.

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She said: "I have been in quite a bit of pain for quite a while and I'm not registered anywhere.

"And I'm trying to work while talking to customers every day and it's not a great experience."

For the five years she has lived in Thetford she has been unable to get on the books of an NHS dental practice.

Jill Harding, communications director for Dentaid, said it looked like a record number of people had been seen by the clinic 

Jill Harding, communications director for Dentaid, said it looked like a record number of people had been seen by the clinic - Credit: Mariam Ghaemi

Jill Harding, communications director for Dentaid, said 48 people had been seen at the clinic by early afternoon, which appears to be a new record for the charity for one day.

She said a couple of the patients were children.

Councillor Diane Hind said relying on charity-run clinics to bridge the gap in NHS dental provision was not sustainable going forward.

Councillors Diane Hind (left) and Donna Higgins

Councillors Diane Hind (left) and Donna Higgins. They, amongst other town councillors, had helped to fund the Dentaid clinic - Credit: Mariam Ghaemi

"It's a travesty and it shouldn't be occurring in the modern age that people are having to do this."

She added: "We need to keep the pressure up. The lords and masters need to be shamed. This is what's happening in England today."

Councillor Donna Higgins said she had heard more than one person saying they had pulled their own teeth out.

She said: "There's two sides to this: the emergency care that's not being provided to people and also the run-up to that - the education, constant checking. The prevention is missing."

Dental charity Dentaid came to Bury St Edmunds on February 3rd to provide a free service for people

Dental charity Dentaid came to Bury St Edmunds on February 3 to provide a free service for people with severe pain and no other access to treatment. Jill Harding from the charity - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Town councillors have used their locality funding to pay for this Dentaid visit.

Previously, a government spokesperson said: "Work is underway on dental contract reform. We are working with partners, including the British Dental Association, to look at alternative ways of commissioning services and making the NHS a more attractive place to work for dentists."