6:30 AM October 1, 2022
A Bury St Edmunds man in desperate pain from a ‘golf ball sized’ abscess caused by a compacted wisdom tooth resorted to taking out a bank loan to cover the £500 cost of private dental care after his search for an NHS dentist proved fruitless.
Darren Turner was speaking as figures from the Local Government Association (LGA) revealed the Mid Suffolk district, which neighbours Bury, had some of the lowest numbers of NHS dentists in England, with just 0.067 dentists per 1,000 people.
The father-of-two visited the A&E department at West Suffolk Hospital twice in agony, only to be told there were no dentists available to treat him, while a Google search for local NHS care was also in vain.
In the end, the postal worker, who does not drive, had to travel 30 miles to Cambridge for the private treatment.
He said: “I was suffering terrible toothache which became progressively worse over a number of months and I took over-the-counter medication to try and control the pain.
“I went to West Suffolk Hospital, but they said they did not have any dentists and it got to the point where I had a golf ball sized lump on my jaw.
“When I called 111, they said I needed to be seen immediately, only to be told by A&E that they could not treat me as they did not have any dentists there.”
Instead, he was given antibiotics to ease the swelling, which helped the pain to subside, but within a couple of weeks the abscess ‘came back with a vengeance,’ forcing him to take the private route.
He said the lack of local NHS dentistry made life especially difficult for people on low incomes who were already dealing with the cost-of-living crisis caused by spiralling inflation.
He knew of some people who were drinking alcohol to numb the pain caused by dental problems.
“With the cost-of-living crisis, I am struggling to put food in my children’s bellies and to keep the house warm in the winter.
“I have to choose now between being in pain and paying my bills so it literally comes down to a choice between ‘do I look after my children or sort out my pain?’ and any parent will put their child first no matter how much pain they are in,” Mr Turner said.