The rise of DIY dentistry: Britons doing their own fillings to avoid NHS bill

Over-the-counter kits intended as temporary remedies for lost fillings, caps and crowns being used to avoid costly surgery trips

A missed appointment and resulting £25 charge led Alex to become a DIY dentist. Using an emergency over-the-counter dental first aid kit, bought from a pound store, the 38-year-old building engineer from Glasgow began fixing his own teeth rather than run up bills. “I couldn’t justify going and getting my teeth out when we can’t afford nappies,” he said.

His partner, Tilly, gave up her teaching job when their eldest son was diagnosed with leukaemia five years ago. When the recession hit, Alex found work hard to come by. A jobcentre interview clashed with an appointment to fill some cavities, and Alex concluded that the family could not afford his dental work.

In a country that prides itself on free healthcare, DIY dentistry is an almost Victorian notion of hardship. But poverty and inequality – and the increasing stigma attached to both – are blocking access to healthcare for the poorest people in the UK, and grim tales of a black economy are on the rise.

“DIY dentistry is fairly common round here,” said Emma Richardson at the Star Project in Paisley, Renfrewshire. “They sell a lot of those first aid kits – you can buy them in Boots and Asda as well, and you’ve got people taking care of their whole family’s teeth with them.” The kits, which can be bought for a few pounds, are intended as a temporary remedy for lost fillings, caps and crowns.

In a survey of local people, the Star Project, a church-based community organisation, found people buying DIY kits online from pound shops or even from friends to do their own fillings. One client told Richardson: “My uncle takes care of his teeth and everyone in his family.”...more