A man has claimed he pulled out one of his own teeth after waiting more than 18 months to find an NHS dentist.
David Woodhouse, 62, said he had been unable to get a spot at a surgery near his home in Truro, Cornwall.
“I had a loose one and it was causing me a little bit of pain, so I got the needle-nose pliers and out it came,” the engineer said.
NHS England encouraged those in need of urgent dental care to its emergency helpline.
Mr Woodhouse said: “The removal itself was considerably less painful than the long-term pain I was experiencing.
‘I‘d go anywhere‘
“I‘m not looking forward to the next tooth coming loose, I may have to consider a bank loan to go private, but why should I?
“I feel so embarrassed as well, it would be nice to eat an apple or a steak again one day.”
Healthwatch Cornwall, the county‘s health watchdog, said some people had been waiting more than three years to register with a dentist.
Mr Woodhouse, from Ventongimps, near Truro, used to go for regular check-ups at his local practice, but returned from a period working abroad to find that he had lost his place.
“I tried to get an NHS dentist. I went online – nothing. I went on a waiting list – nothing,” he said.
There are more than 48,000 people on the waiting list in Devon and Cornwall, according to NHS England.
A reveals that just one practice in the Duchy is accepting new patients.
“It‘s like looking for gold dust. When you go on the waiting list you have to specify three towns, but I would go anywhere within 100 miles of Truro,” Mr Woodhouse said.
“I would go anywhere within half a day‘s drive – I do not care.”
A spokesperson for NHS England said: “We would encourage anyone with an urgent dental need to the emergency dental helpline in Cornwall”.
About 27,000 people have been placed with NHS dentists in Devon and Cornwall in the past 12 months.