Woman who pulled out 12 teeth with pliers says government failing on NHS dentistry

Caroline Pursey told ITV News "it got so painful, I just started pulling them out"

A woman who resorted to pulling out 12 of her own teeth with pliers says the government has failed to deal with a crisis in NHS dentistry.

Caroline Pursey, 63, from Scunthorpe, removed her teeth because of insufferable pain after being unable to secure an appointment.

"I've been told I can't be accepted, or there's a three year waiting list," she said.

"You can't believe what it feels like not being able to smile anymore. It's ruining my face."

Ms Pursey developed a dental problem while in hospital for an unrelated issue, but was unable to establish the cause.

She said her previous NHS dentist "went private" and she contacted a list of other health service dentists in the area without success.

"It got so painful, I just started pulling them out," she said.

Caroline Pursey before her dental problems developed.

Unemployed and surviving on Universal Credit payments, Ms Pursey said her appearance had even hampered attempts to get a job.

"I've had three interviews," she said. "They do these group things, and I've done brilliantly in those, but as soon as they do a one-to-one, as soon as I open my mouth, it goes [badly], because I can't smile.

"Nobody wants you in retail if you've got no teeth and you can't smile. That's been my job for 50 years.

"I can't be me anymore. I deserve a smile. I worked hard all my life, and paid [into the system]."

Responding to her case, health secretary Victoria Atkins said: "Somebody in that amount of pain must always remember that if they need to they can always go to their local accident and emergency ward to get help, because that should not be happening."

It came as Ms Atkins announced dentists would be offered £20,000 "golden hellos" to encourage them to set up practices in under-served areas of the country as part of a "dental recovery plan".

Dental vans will be introduced for coastal and rural communities.

"With the dental recovery plan, we are focusing on getting dental vans out to those areas that don't have practices at the moment," Ms Atkins said.

"We want to stimulate the market but get the vans to people in the meantime to ensure that they get this help."

Asked if the government was doing enough to help, Ms Pursey said: "No, absolutely not.

"I get pushed, I'm supposed to find a job, but I can't find a job because when they look at me they go 'she hasn't got teeth'.

"I can't eat. I have to eat sloppy food. I want to eat proper food. Is that so bad a thing?" she said.

"I'm sick of soup. I want to eat steak. At my time in life, I should be able to eat."

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