ONE in four dental people in Scotland say they have tried and failed to get an NHS dental appointment in the past year, with some resorting to "DIY dentistry" in desperation.

The survey of more than 2,200 adults across the UK, including nearly 200 in Scotland, was carried out in August by Savanta Comres on behalf of the LibDems.

Across the UK as a whole, they found that 23 per cent of people had tried unsuccessfully to get an NHS dental appointment in the past 12 months. Among respondents in Scotland, the figure was 25%.

Of those across the UK unable to get an NHS appointment, 21% said they had "carried out dental work" themselves or "asked somebody else who is not a dentist to do so".

In Scotland, the figure was lower at 15% of respondents. Three in 20 said they had opted to pay for private treatment instead, with the same percentage saying they had either "travelled a long distance" to see an NHS dentist or given up on seeing a dentist "despite suffering with pain".

READ MORE: Dentists say they cannot afford to provide NHS treatment 

Access to NHS dentistry has become increasingly difficult, with research in August revealing that nine in 10 UK dental practices were refusing to take on any new patients on an NHS basis.

In Scotland, the figure averaged four in five, although in some areas - including Dumfries and Galloway and Dundee - no dental practices were accepting new NHS patients.

Most dental practices are mixed, providing both NHS and private treatment, but it has become increasingly common for patients to be told they can only be registered as a private patient.

Dentists say the spiralling costs of running practices - including staff salaries and overheads such as heating and lighting - make it increasingly unaffordable to provide NHS treatment at current rates.

Health is devolved, but total amount available to spend on public services is influenced by decisions taken at a UK level.

Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson, Daisy Cooper MP, said: “It is now or never to save our NHS from a winter of crisis that will put patients at risk. This heartbreaking rise in DIY dentistry is further evidence that this Government simply doesn’t care about our vital local health services.

"It is a national scandal that people are forced to pull their own teeth out because our public health services have been starved of funding.”

It comes after the latest statistics for Scotland showed a sharp dip in the number of dental treatments being carried out on the NHS.

According to Public Health Scotland figures, dentists were being reimbursed for an average of 330,000 NHS treatment claims per month between April, May and June this year.

READ MORE: Tooth extractions up 26 per cent compared to pre-pandemic levels

This followed the easing of Covid infection control protocols from April 1, increasing the number of patients who could be seen, along with the introduction of a temporary multiplier by the Scottish Government which reimbursed dentists £1.70 for every £1 of NHS treatment claimed.

This was cut to £1.30 from July onwards, however, with figures showing a 21% slump in the number of claims paid, to 261,537, that same month. Sharp decreases were seen for everything from basic examinations to root canals, fillings, extractions and X-rays.

Dental leaders say the 1.3 rate is too low to cover costs, deterring NHS work, and want to see a major overhaul in the payment system applied to NHS dentistry.

The current multiplier arrangement is due to expire at the end of September, and it remains unclear what will replace it.

Public Health Minister Maree Todd said: “Reimbursement claims are over 40% higher for the three months to the end of July compared with the three months to the end of March, demonstrating strong recovery of the sector and a commensurate level of patient throughput.

“I am grateful for the hard work of dental teams across the country who have worked hard to see more patients as infection prevention and control measures were reduced and we are continuing to provide NHS dental services with an unprecedented level of financial support.”