Worthing grandmother pulls out nine teeth after failing to find NHS dentist
A Worthing grandmother-of-five who was unable to register with an NHS dentist has ended up pulling out nine of her own teeth over the past two years.
Nikki Titchener, from Durrington, West Sussex, said she had called up more than a dozen dentist practices since January – but had been told they were only taking on private patients.
The 53-year-old said: “They are saying they are not taking NHS but if I want to go private, they can see me tomorrow. I think that’s wrong.
“It’s not because they don’t have any room. They have, if you have money, which I find frustrating. If I could pay, I would pay.”
Nikki said she had not seen a dentist for 16 years because her teeth had always been in a good condition.
She believes her problems started when she was put on a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) ventilator about five years ago to help her breathe while she was asleep.
This, coupled with new medication she started taking, dried out her mouth and made her gums begin to recede, she said, leading to problems with her teeth.
About two years ago, she started trying to find a dentist. But nowhere had space, and she was repeatedly told to call back and try again in three months’ time.
She ended up in so much pain that she took her first tooth out herself, using pliers. She has since taken out eight more, using her fingers.
She said her teeth hurt her 24/7. “The pain is absolutely indescribable at times,” she said.
“Every day they just wobble. I can’t eat anything, it’s horrendous.”
And the situation has had a detrimental effect on her mental health, with the grandmother admitting it used to make her avoid going out and seeing people.
“You look awful, you’re forever holding your head down, holding your hand over your mouth when you’re talking to people, you’re so self conscious about it,” she said. “It’s horrible.”
But the situation had improved since face masks became mandatory, as it gave her an excuse to hide her teeth. “Having to wear a mask, that’s sort of done me a favour,” she added.
Nikki, who is not working at the moment, believes the work on her teeth could cost her up to £4,000 if she went private. “I can’t afford to pay,” she said. “I need so much work done.”
She believes she is not alone in her predicament, saying she frequently sees people posting on Facebook asking where was accepting NHS patients.
“It’s not just me, there are plenty of other people,” she said. “It’s obvious that something is failing.”
The pandemic has made it even more difficult to find an NHS dentist in West Sussex – read more from our #dentistryindecay investigation here.