Pensioner flies to Spain for dental treatment amid backlogs

A GRANDFATHER flew to Spain for dental treatment after months of “excruciating agony” waiting to see a dentist in Scotland.

Nigel Fryer, 76, had been unable to find a practice willing to take him on as an NHS patient when he returned to Kirkgunzeon, Dumfries-shire from Spain in January, with wife Maggie.

The couple, who moved to Scotland from the Lake District in 2020, have split their time between the UK and a second home in Alhama de Granada for the past 15 years and previously received all their dental care in Spain.

However, Brexit rules limit the time they can spend there.

READ MORE: Dental leaders condemn ‘exploitable’ fee model which has ‘widened inequalities’

Mr Fryer, a retired hospital manager, had been diagnosed with an abscess and prescribed antibiotics in Spain before returning to Scotland with toothache which he said became so painful he wanted to die.

“It got to the stage where I was thinking ‘if I go to sleep and I don’t wake up, I think that’ll be the best result I can possibly hope for,” said Mr Fryer.

After calling 111, he was referred to the Dumfries emergency dental hospital where he was prescribed a second course of antibiotics, but told that he would have to register with a dental practice for further treatment.

Unable to get NHS care, Mr Fryer joined private patient waiting list with a Dalbeattie dental practice and was eventually accepted onto their list in March.

However, he was told it would be June 9 before they could see him for an examination.

READ MORE: What’s happened to NHS dentistry?

By May, once again in “excruciating agony”, Mr Fryer was referred back to the emergency dental hospital.

“She drilled through the tooth, scraped it all out, put some bleach in and packed it with cotton wool but said ‘you’re going to have to go to your dentist to get this finished off’.

“So I just got an appointment with my Spanish dentist and flew out there.

“It’s a town of around 5000 people up in the mountains – olive farming and agriculture mainly, not a massively prosperous town – but we do have five dental practices, and they’re all good.”

Once in Spain, his dentist removed an infected bridge and extracted three abscessed teeth, with stitches and a follow-up consultation, at a total cost of €150 (£130).

Mr Fryer was also quoted €2,400 (£2000) for two implants to replace his lost teeth, compared to £5000 each for implants done privately in Scotland.

Returning to Dumfries, Mr Fryer was diagnosed with periodontal infection during his June 9 examination at the Dalbeattie practice.

He has been prescribed two rounds of teeth cleaning plus two root canal treatments, at a total cost of £810, but the earliest available appointments are in September and October.

READ MORE: Warning practitioners will quit or go private in bitter funding battle with Government 

Last week, toothache flared up again in one of his abscessed teeth.

He praises the practice for seeing him “promptly” to drill the tooth and drain the infection at a cost of £49.99, but says he finds it “galling” that his only option is private care which means paying an £18-a-month membership plus the “added insult” of having to pay for antibiotics that would be free on the NHS.

Mr Fryer said: “It’s a cracking practice, they’re lovely people, and the dentist is highly competent, but you get to this stage in life where your teeth are falling out, your income is absolutely shot, and you see the kind of figures for private treatment.

“I’m just watching the savings dwindling away. You wouldn’t mind if you thought the charges were reasonable.”



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