The number of people who've seen an NHS dentist in Leicestershire has plummeted in recent years, shocking new figures uncovered by the Liberal Democrats have revealed.
Only just over 1 in 3, locally were able to secure an appointment with an NHS dentist in the past two years. This is down from 48.8% or nearly half, who saw an NHS dentist in the two years up to 2018.
In a similarly desperate situation, fewer than half of children have been able to see a dentist in the last 12 months, despite the NHS recommending under-18s see a dentist at least once a year. This is down from 60.8% or more than six in ten children who had seen an NHS dentist in the year to 2018.
The stark figures were compiled by the House of Commons Library following a request by the Liberal Democrats.
It comes as distressing polling has found that one in five (21%) adults unable to see a dentist have carried out DIY dentistry in a desperate attempt to relieve their pain.
The Liberal Democrats are calling on the Government to set out an NHS winter rescue plan as soon as Parliament returns, to provide urgent help to those living in dental agony. This would also include immediate action to reduce dangerously long ambulance waiting times and speed up access to healthcare for the almost seven million people stuck on NHS waiting lists.
Leader of Leicestershire Lib Dem County Councillors, Councillor Michael Mullaney said
"Far too many people in Leicestershire are struggling to see an NHS dentist and get the affordable dental healthcare they need. A recent BBC report found that no Dentists in Leicestershire asked were taking on new adult NHS patients.
"We have reached a dental crisis. NHS dentist appointments are becoming harder to get and practices are shutting their doors to NHS patients all together. Yet the government does nothing.
"With people feeling the pinch, private dentistry is not feasible for many people living in pain.
"It's a national scandal that people in our community are desperately turning to dangerous DIY dentistry because our public health services have been run into the ground by this Conservative government. Leicestershire has become a dental desert.
"Liberal Democrats are urging the Government to fund an NHS winter rescue package to improve access to NHS dental appointments, reduce ambulance waiting times and speed up treatment for those who need it."