Wife who pulled husband's tooth with pliers highlights Suffolk dental crisis

  • Watch ITV News Anglia's Andy Ward investigates the dental crisis in Suffolk.

A woman protesting about the dental crisis in her town has described how she had to pull out her husband's tooth with a pair of pliers.

Rebecca Stephenson, 49, from Leiston in Suffolk said she had to take action after her husband was left in agony.

Hers was one of a number of dental horror stories being shared as the campaign group Toothless in Suffolk gathered to mark the third anniversary of the loss of their last NHS dentist in the area.

Mrs Stephenson said: "He did it himself to start with, [using his] fingers and then I had to get in there and help him with a pair of pliers."

She said her husband, who has an auto-immune disorder, had lost six teeth in total after the pair were unable to find an NHS dentist.

Mrs Stephenson has also faced problems after her own bridge broke.

She said: "You can't behave naturally because I don't look or feel how I would like to feel.

"I've got quotes from private practices and with some of them, the cost was the same as putting a roof on our house - about £5,000."

Protesters mark the third anniversary of losing their last NHS dentist in Leiston. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Mark Jones, who set up the group Toothless in Suffolk after the closure of Leiston's last NHS dentist, said the lack of dental treatment was having more serious consequences for people's health.

Mr Jones said: "We know that people are dying from oral mouth cancer, a completely preventable disease, if only people had access, ready-made access to an NHS dentist to get the check-ups that they need."

Other protesters claimed they knew people who had resorted to using whisky to numb the pain of their rotting teeth.

The demonstration in Leiston had attracted journalists from as far afield as Denmark.

But the dental crisis is not just confined to Suffolk.

Dental campaigner Mark Jones, who set up Toothless in Suffolk. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Over the border, a recent study from Healthwatch Norfolk surveyed 50 surgeries and found none of them were taking on new NHS patients.

The survey also revealed several surgeries had waiting lists running into thousands, with one having 6,000 people.

Private practices are helping to fill the gap, but prices for treatment are high.

Chris Kelly, a private dentist who runs the only practice left in Leiston, said: "When we set up here, we had to take the hit with all the funding - the costs of that.

"Whereas if we were in the medical industry, as a GP surgery, that would have been paid for us. So, that really is the problem."

The government said it was investing £200m to create an extra two-and-a-half million NHS appointments over the next year.

Under the plans, NHS dentists will be given a "new patient" payment of between £15-£50 to treat around a million new patients who have not seen an NHS dentist in two years or more.

The NHS said the plan could see up to 2.5 million additional NHS dental appointments delivered for patients over the next 12 months, including up to 1.5 million extra treatments.

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