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How often you should be seeing a dentist as Brits attempt DIY dentistry

A new report has revealed that 10% of Brits have attempted to carry out their own dentistry work - including pulling out teeth at home.

How often should you visit the dentist as report reveals people are being forced to pull out their own teeth. (Getty Images)
How often should you visit the dentist as report reveals people are being forced to pull out their own teeth. (Getty Images)

People in the UK are being forced to turn to "DIY dentistry" and pull out their own teeth at home because they can not access or afford an NHS dentist, a new report has revealed.

The document, which cites a YouGov poll of 2,104 people across the UK conducted in March 2023, found that 10% had admitted to attempting their own dentistry work.

More than half (56%) of the group carried it out in the last year and 20% said they did so because they could not find an NHS dentist.

The survey also found 22% of people were not registered with a dentist, with 23% of those saying it is because they cannot afford treatment.

Read more: People forced to pull out their own teeth amid NHS dental crisis, Evening Standard, 4-min read

Child at NHS dentist. (Getty Images)
When was your child last seen by an NHS dentist?

The stats come after it was revealed that more than 6.5 million children in England have not been seen by an NHS dentist for at least a year.

Based on new research commissioned by the Liberal Democrats, the British Dental Association (BDA) has warned a lack of access will disproportionately impact lower income, higher needs families, widening the UK's oral health gap.

This comes as more practices are no longer taking new NHS patients, coupled with long waiting lists for those that are and high price lists for private clinics.

"Access to dentistry has fallen off a cliff. We're losing the ability to nip problems in the bud, and the results are frankly devastating," says BDA chair Eddie Crouch.

Read more: 10 most common mistakes to avoid for healthy teeth, Yahoo Life UK, 7-min read

Data obtained by the professional body through a Freedom of Information request shows more than 15 million appointments for children have been lost since lockdown, amounting to well over a year's worth of dentistry in normal times.

But it is having an impact on children's teeth, with the first oral health survey of five-year-olds published since lockdown showing no improvements in tooth decay levels and a widening gap between rich and poor.

How often should adults go to the dentist?

Most people assume they need a check-up every six months, but the NHS say some may not need to go so often and others may need to go sooner.

Your dentist will advise how often you need a check-up based on how good your oral health is.

The time between check-ups can vary from three months to two years, depending on how healthy your teeth and gums are and your risk of future problems.

You may need other appointments for dental treatments such as fillings, having a tooth taken out or emergency treatment.

If you have problems with your teeth between check-ups, contact your dental surgery to make an appointment.

Happy dentist looking at an x-ray with his young patient at the office - healthcare and medicine concepts
Children need to go to the dentist more often than adults. (Getty Images)

How often should children go to the dentist?

Children should see a dentist at least once a year. This is because their enamel is weaker, putting them at greater risk of decay.

Children should be taken to the dentist when their first milk teeth appear, to help them get used to the environment, and help prevent decay or deal with any oral issues early on.

NHS dental care is free for children under 18, or under 19 and in full-time education.

How can you find an NHS dentist?

You can search for a dentist near you by entering your town, city or postcode in England on this NHS search tool. You will be given a list of dentists with all their details, and information on whether it's taking new patients or not.

For example, it may say "Accepting children aged 17 or under", "Only taking NHS patients referred by another dentist", "Not accepting new patients", or "This dentist surgery has not given a recent update on whether they're taking new NHS patients. You can contact them directly to ask."

This can be useful for knowing which clinics to call and inquire about appointments, and increase the chances of getting your child seen by an NHS dentist if they're not already registered with one.

A boy brushes his teeth with an electric toothbrush near a backlit mirror.
A mirror will help your child see where the brush is cleaning their teeth. (Getty Images)

Tooth brushing tips

The British Dental Association has put together some tips for helping to look after your teeth:

  • Brushing your teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste not only helps prevent tooth decay and gum disease and it can also prevent bad breath.

  • Your dentist or hygienist can show you how best to brush your teeth and give you advice and support on having a good oral hygiene routine.

  • If you are a parent, it's really important to start teaching your child oral hygiene habits as soon as their first baby teeth come through (usually around 6 months old).

  • Children need to be supervised when they brush until the age of seven, to make sure they are brushing correctly, and for long enough

  • Teeth are often forgotten about, but they are important not just for your oral health but also for your general health and wellbeing.

  • If you have a healthy diet, brush your teeth and visit your dentist regularly, you will minimise your risk of having oral health problems.

The NHS has great up-to-date advice and tips on how to brush teeth and dental health more widely.

The Oral Health Foundation is an independent charity focusing on promoting good oral health and provides information for patients.

Watch: Patients feel the pinch with rise in NHS dental treatments

Additional reporting PA.