'I think it's scandalous' - town without dentists hosts clinic

Leiston resident David Mower attended the clinic to get a filling. 

Leiston resident David Mower attended the clinic to get a filling. - Credit: Charlotte Bond

Dental campaigners have renewed their call for an NHS practice in their town as patients arrived from 5.30am to be treated by a charity more used to working in the world's poorest countries.

The mobile Dentaid surgery in the Waterloo Centre car park in Leiston was so busy, ten patients were asked to return yesterday afternoon, with 36 people expected to be treated in the morning . 

Daniel Goodchild came along having carried out his own dental work to relieve the pain from a broken tooth.

Daniel Goodchild carried out his own dental work to relieve the pain from a broken tooth.

Daniel Goodchild carried out his own dental work to relieve the pain from a broken tooth. - Credit: Dominic Bareham

The care worker paid £7 for a pot of dental filler from a local chemist to try and fill the hole left by the tooth.

He was waiting for an x-ray to see if a tooth extraction could proceed and said he last visited an NHS dentist more than two years ago.

The Quakers Way resident said: "I think it is absolutely ridiculous. There are so many people out there who are in pain, but they can't get in anywhere. They are having to travel miles and miles to see a dentist."

He had instead visited a GP, who prescribed him some antibiotics to help him cope with the pain. 

David Mower. Dentaid has come to Leiston to give free dental care to those who have problems with th

David Mower. Dentaid has come to Leiston to give free dental care to those who have problems with their teeth PICTURE: CHARLOTTE BOND - Credit: CHARLOTTE BOND

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David Mower, of Huntingfield Road, Leiston, was visiting the Dentaid clinic to have a filling.

He had not visited a dentist for three years; the last time being when there were two NHS surgeries in the town. 

He said: "I think it is absolutely horrendous. I think it is scandalous. Leiston is a growing town and then we have got Sizewell C on top of the growth of Leiston.

"There is just nowhere to go. The closest place, I'm told, is Colchester."

He said he was "sceptical" the £50million pledged by the government would make any difference to the situation.

Dentaid has come to Leiston to give free dental care to those who have problems with their teeth PI

Dentaid has come to Leiston to give free dental care to those who have problems with their teeth PICTURE: CHARLOTTE BOND - Credit: CHARLOTTE BOND

Paul Bailey, of Carr Avenue, said he last visited an NHS dentist three and a half years ago and had since visited a private practice Denplan, but it was very expensive.

He said the pandemic had also had an impact.

He added: “It is very sad that we have got to this stage where we have got no dentists in town. You can pay to go private, but it is very expensive.”

Melissa Morgan, of Heath View, said she had been experiencing pain in her mouth and was hoping to receive a diagnosis.

She had not seen a dentist for two years.

She added: "It is really bad that there is no dentist. This is a solution for now, but they can't come here all the time."

Steve Marsling and Mark Jones co - coordinator of toothless in Suffolk. Dentaid has come to Leiston

Steve Marsling and Mark Jones co - coordinator of toothless in Suffolk. Dentaid has come to Leiston to give free dental care to those who have problems with their teeth PICTURE: CHARLOTTE BOND - Credit: CHARLOTTE BOND

Steve Marsling, co-founder of campaign group Toothless in Suffolk, praised the charity for visiting his town to provide care for free after he had raised £1,500 to cover the cost of the service.

However, he was scathing of the Government for failing to fund dental care, leaving the town without an NHS surgery since 2021.

"We are delighted that we have managed to bring Dentaid here today. We are already fully booked- people came from 5.30am, but the main point I want to get across is that we should not be having to do this.

"We are one of the richest countries in the world and yet we are having to rely on charity services. One day, the Government is talking about levelling up, but this seems like we are levelling down," Mr Marsling added.

The charity has worked in 70 countries, including in Africa and Asia, helping poor and remote communities with limited access to dental care, but for the last six years has focused on the UK, providing dental services to the homeless and vulnerable at soup kitchens and night shelters, among other places.

Andy Evans

Dentaid CEO Andy Evans - Credit: Archant

Andy Evans, CEO of Dentaid, said the Government's plan to provide £50m to create 350,000 NHS dental appointments across the country, announced last week, was a short term fix, but in the long term dentistry needed to attract more staff.

The East of England will receive £5.7m from the funding pot.

"Throwing money at it is a short term answer, but we need to have the staffing. It is very difficult to recruit trained dentists and that has not been helped by Brexit and people are leaving in droves, especially experienced dentists. Younger dentists might not have the experience due to COVID," he added.

The mobile clinic is at The Thomas Clarkson Centre in Bury St Edmunds today (Thursday).

Neil Sikka dentist for Bupa. Dentaid has come to Leiston to give free dental care to those who have

Neil Sikka dentist for Bupa. Dentaid has come to Leiston to give free dental care to those who have problems with their teeth PICTURE: CHARLOTTE BOND - Credit: CHARLOTTE BOND