Shattered Life: Do-It-Yourself Dentistry in Britain

Posted: Sep 04, 2009 11:09 AM

...from the National Center for Public Policy Research's new book, Shattered Lives: 100 Stories of Government Health Care

Do-It-Yourself Dentistry in Britain

“I was lying awake at night being driven mad by this constant throbbing ache; it was horrible,” recalls George Daulat of Scarborough, England. Over the course of several weeks, Daulat had developed a nasty toothache. When the pain became unbearable, Daulat’s girlfriend helped him look for treatment.  She made calls to 20 public National Health Service dentists as well as private practices, though Daulat was unemployed.

However, because of a shortage of dentists, there was no dentist available.  In fact, Scarborough residents needed to travel over 50 miles to other towns just to receive a check up or filling. The British The Sun newspaper reported in 2004 that Scarborough:

[I]s so hard-hit with the lack of NHS dentists that queues stretched hundreds of yards earlier this year [February 2004] when one finally opened...  Around 3,000 people tried to join [register for care] – but they were left stranded when Dutch dentist Aria Van Drie fled after it was revealed she had criminal convictions.[# More #]


In desperation, Daulat decided to do the work the old fashioned way – by himself, using old rusty pliers.

“I knew it would hurt but I thought ‘just suffer it’ rather than go through extended pain,” Daulat said. “In the end I simply could not take any more.” He added: “I had a pair of pliers in a tool box.  They were old and a bit rusty but I knew they would do the job.”

Daulat bought a bottle of vodka as anesthetic and, to dull the pain, drank a pint of it before pulling the first ailing tooth.  Daulat describes the gruesome process in detail:

I gripped the first tooth, squeezed and pulled.  I felt this blinding pain, followed by a snap as the tooth cracked...  I pulled again and managed to get the whole thing out...  However, the pain was still there and I went back for two more.  I managed to get them out but the fourth wouldn’t come...  I tugged and tugged but I couldn’t get it out and I have had to leave it halfway out.

In agony, Daulat called the local NHS emergency dentist center, Northway Clinic, for immediate care.  But Northway refused to see Daulat the day he pulled the teeth because his call was not made early enough in the day.

At last, the next day Daulat was treated at a local NHS dentistry after the practice read about Daulat’s handling in the newspaper.

“He was obviously in agony and we wanted to help him,” said Kasandra Dowling of Medimatch dental practice in Scarborough.  Though relieved, Daulat said: “I’m so happy I’ve got a dentist and I’m not in pain anymore but did it really have to go this far before somebody did something?”

He added, “People will think I am crazy to have pulled my own teeth out but they weren’t living with the pain.” “It was the hardest and most horrible thing I have ever done, but I was desperate.”

Purchase or download a free PDF of The National Center for Public Policy Research's new book, Shattered Lives: 100 Stories of Government Health Care, for more on the way waiting lists affect the lives of people living in countries with government-run medicine.  You can download it today for free at