Patients talk of toothache 'misery' at dental outreach clinic

Kelly Smith spoke of suffering "unbearable" toothache over months

Kelly Smith spoke of suffering "unbearable" toothache over months - Credit: Mariam Ghaemi

Patients who have endured "unbearable" toothache for months because they have been unable to find an NHS dentist have been helped at a free emergency clinic.

Charity Dentaid has been in Bury St Edmunds today, November 10, to alleviate the "misery" of dental pain for those with no other access to treatment.

Campaigners have been fighting for better dental provision in Suffolk, where some people are being forced out of county for NHS care. 

Kelly Smith, 32, from Thetford, said she had contacted at least 20 dental practices including in Thetford, Cambridge, Newmarket and Haverhill and had been unable to register with an NHS dentist.

Mrs Smith, a full-time mum-of-four who was attending the free Dentaid Clinic at West Road Church, said: "I'm willing to go anywhere to get the help I need."

Kelly Smith attended the Dentaid clinic in Bury St Edmunds 

Kelly Smith attended the Dentaid clinic in Bury St Edmunds - Credit: Mariam Ghaemi

She said she had been able to see an emergency dentist in Cambridge about six months ago to remove a tooth, but had turned up at the Bury St Edmunds clinic due to "unbearable pain" in another tooth.

She said: "The pain has been really bad. I have not been able to do anything. I have four children as well and it's been hard to look after them with how much pain I have been in. I have been dosed up on painkillers."

Mrs Smith, who spoke to us before receiving treatment, said she didn't know how she had managed for so long with the pain, which has been bothering her for months.

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She said she was removed off the list as an NHS dental patient during Covid.

Bury St Edmunds resident Paul, who asked for his surname to not be included, had a tooth removed at the Dentaid clinic.

Paul, who has also been unable to get an NHS dentist, said he had endured dental pain for three months.

"I have been eating on the other side for the last three months, and all the headaches associated with it as well."

The Dentaid clinic was funded by Denplan, which is part of Simplyhealth, and the company’s clinicians were volunteering on the mobile dental unit alongside regular Dentaid volunteers. 

Dentaid has worked in more than 70 countries and provides outreach dental care for people who struggle to access treatment, including those who are homeless and vulnerable and fishing communities, but this was the first time it had come to Bury St Edmunds.

“Following recent media reports we have been made aware that people in Bury St Edmunds have been struggling to access dental care which is causing unnecessary misery for those living with untreated toothache,” said Dentaid’s chief executive Andy Evans.

Jill Harding, communications director for Dentaid, said the reaction from patients at the free clinic had been "wonderful"

Jill Harding, communications director for Dentaid, said the reaction from patients at the free clinic had been "wonderful" - Credit: Mariam Ghaemi

Jill Harding, communications director for Dentaid, said it was "quite unusual" for Dentaid to need to visit a town like Bury St Edmunds.

"We are here to fill a gap in provision in the meantime," she said. "We don't want anyone living with untreated toothache or anyone feeling they have to live on painkillers for a long period of time or take their own teeth out."

Ms Harding believes they will have seen at least 30 patients over the day, and some were asked to attend tomorrow at the Moreton Hall Community Centre.

Some people had turned up at 8.15am today when the clinic didn't start until 10am.

Ms Harding said: "The reaction from patients has been wonderful, so much gratitude."

The charity’s mobile dental unit offers free oral cancer screening, dental health advice, fillings and extractions.

There is a clinic at Moreton Community Centre in Bury St Edmunds tomorrow, November 11, from 10am to 4pm. People don’t need appointments and are invited to turn up and wait to be seen. Everyone will be triaged to assess their level of need.

Dentaid is now seeking funding so it can return to Bury St Edmunds to help more people next year.

For more information about the charity see here.