As I speak to people every day around North Cornwall I am hearing more and more about the difficulties local people are facing in accessing NHS dentists and I am shocked to hear so many stories of DIY dentistry.

Just last week, for example, it was reported that tooth extraction due to dental decay is the leading reason behind hospital admissions of young children aged six to ten in Cornwall. This comes amid a rising NHS dental crisis with patients being dropped from NHS dental surgeries overnight. I come from a family of health care professionals, and it’s appalling to think that people of all ages should be experiencing pain and discomfort because of lack of access to good dental care, whether it is sorting a filling or fixing dentures. 

Finding an NHS Dentist is challenging due to demand and limited availability.  I understand there are around 78,000 people in Devon and Cornwall on the waiting list for an NHS Dentist and the situation is getting worse. In July last year, Parliament’s own Health and Social Care Committee reported a totally unacceptable situation where patients experience pain and distress due to a lack of access to NHS dentists. You also don't have to look too far to find media posts highlighting what desperate measures some patients take when they can’t find a dentist including performing their own DIY dentistry and teeth extractions. People shouldn’t have to resort to seeking out private dental care, especially at a time where the cost of living is impacting so many people in the Duchy. Such vital treatment should be available to all and the government must act to tackle this crisis instead of sidestepping the issue.

In my view one of the key issues affecting local dental services is dentists leaving NHS dentistry due to the absurd NHS Dental Contract which the Liberal Democrats are committed to reforming. It completely disincentives NHS dental work. Additionally, newly qualified dentists often choose not to take up work in Cornwall. 

Whilst I am aware of some of the new local preventative initiatives to alleviate Cornwall’s growing dental crisis in children such as Smarter Smiles, First Dental Steps and new oral health packs, the latter being part funded by a Bus Company (!), in my view these still aren’t nearly enough to replace that regular dental health check up or treatment when it’s needed by a dentist. 

I’ve recently launched a dental survey ( to find out from residents just how this situation impacts on them and their families. I’m also encouraging readers to back my campaign for more NHS dentists so please sign up using the link today.

Ben Maguire, Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidate for North Cornwall