Poll didn’t find 20% of Britons are resorting to ‘DIY dentistry’

23 September 2022
What was claimed

One in five Britons are resorting to 'DIY dentistry' due to a drought of NHS dental appointments, according to a recent poll.

Our verdict

This isn’t true. The poll, carried out by the Liberal Democrats, found that approximately a quarter of respondents had failed to get an appointment with their local NHS dentist over the past year. Of those, 21% resorted to either attempting dentistry on themselves, or asked a friend or family member to do it for them.

20% of Brits have resorted to ‘DIY dentistry’ amid NHS crisis

One in five resort to ‘DIY dentistry’ as appointments crisis grows

Headlines published this week claimed that a fifth of people in Britain had resorted to “DIY dentistry” amid a “crisis” in the availability of NHS dentist appointments. 

MailOnline claimed that “20% of Brits have resorted to ‘DIY dentistry’ amid NHS crisis”, according to a new poll, while the Telegraph said: “One in five resort to ‘DIY dentistry’ as appointments crisis grows”. 

But this is not what the poll, commissioned by the Liberal Democrats, actually found. Instead, the survey of 2,234 people found that 36% had got a dentist appointment when they needed one, 23% had tried and failed, and 40% hadn’t tried. 

Of the 23% that had tried and failed to get an appointment, 21% said they had tried ‘DIY dentistry’—defined as carrying out dental work on themselves or asking someone who is not a dentist to help them. 

This means that almost 5% of people surveyed had tried DIY dentistry, as opposed to the  21% reported by MailOnline. 

Both articles do clarify this further down, but not before suggesting the figure referred to the percentage of all people who had resorted to DIY dentistry, not just those who failed to get an appointment. 

After being contacted by Full Fact, MailOnline changed part of its headline to “20% of Brits who’ve been unable to get an NHS appointment have resorted to ‘DIY dentistry” and added a footnote to clarify this error. 

However, the first line of its article still states: “One in five Britons are resorting to 'DIY dentistry' due to a drought of NHS dental appointments.” 

Both articles also specifically highlighted extreme methods of DIY dentistry, such as people pulling their own teeth or attempting to make teeth out of materials such as superglue or resin. 

The Telegraph said: “For some patients, this meant using a temporary “filling kit” – only supposed to be a short-term measure – while others claimed to have pulled out their own teeth.”

But while previous reporting has highlighted people resorting to these methods, this particular poll carried out on behalf of the Liberal Democrats did not ask people what forms of DIY dentistry they had carried out. However, the press release sent out by the Liberal Democrats did quote their health spokesperson, Daisy Cooper MP, as saying “people are forced to pull their own teeth”. 

The term ‘DIY dentistry’ could also include using products like home teeth filling kits or crown repair kits, which are intended for temporary use. 

Full Fact has contacted the Telegraph for comment. 

Image courtesy of Caroline LM

We took a stand for good information.

After we published this fact check, we contacted the Telegraph to request a correction regarding this claim.

The Telegraph made some of the changes we suggested. 

We also contacted Mail Online to request another correction to its article. 

Mail Online made further changes to its article, in addition to those mentioned in our fact check.

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