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Nurse in pain told to file broken tooth with nail file as dentist waiting lists grow

PUBLISHED: 06:30 26 April 2020 | UPDATED: 13:12 26 April 2020

File photo. A nurse at the NNUH was unable to get an emergency dental appointemnt due to extensive waiting lists. Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

File photo. A nurse at the NNUH was unable to get an emergency dental appointemnt due to extensive waiting lists. Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

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A nurse in pain was told to file down her broken tooth with a nail file after being refused an emergency dental appointment due to a waiting list of hundreds of people.

Heather Duffield’s daughter, from Norwich, who does not want to be named, felt her tooth snap while eating a packet of crisps last week.

The nurse, who works at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, investigated further and found the crown had been ripped off, exposing a jagged, painful tooth.

Since the country went into lockdown in March, the British Dental Association (BDA) has told dentist surgeries to close their doors. Patients seeking emergency care are referred to urgent dental care hubs (UDC), of which there are three in Norfolk - in Norwich, King’s Lynn and Great Yarmouth.

Dr Gautam Sharma, owner of West Earlham Dental Practice, said he had concerns unregistered patients would struggle to find help. Picture: West Earlham Dental HealthDr Gautam Sharma, owner of West Earlham Dental Practice, said he had concerns unregistered patients would struggle to find help. Picture: West Earlham Dental Health

MORE: Dentists shut to all except emergencies



Due to the extreme discomfort, the nurse, in her 40s, called a private dentist practice to arrange an emergency appointment.

But when she called, the practice informed her there were no emergency appointments available as there were hundreds of people waiting for care.

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Instead, he recommended she used a nail file to smooth down the spiky tooth and to keep the area clean.

Ms Duffield, from north Norfolk, said: “I was gobsmacked and shocked to hear a professional would suggest that. She decided not to follow advice as it could cause infection.”

She was also advised to use anaesthetic gel and a paste, which can smooth sharp edges, but only if they were available to purchase online.

MORE: ‘End of an era’ as historic dental practice is set to close



Ms Duffield, 69, said: “My daughter is still suffering from a dull, nagging ache. The lack of treatment available and the advice she got made her feel very upset, but she is not the type to make a fuss.

“What makes me worry is that it is not just her - there must be lots of people suffering out there with dental problems who are unable to get help.”

Gautam Sharma, lead clinician at West Earlham Dental Practice in Norwich, said there was a backlog of patients at UDCs as dentists there were not able to see as many patients as in a usual practice.

He added his biggest fear was unregistered patients who would be unable to access treatment without a referral.

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