More than seven in 10 people (73%) said they found it difficult to access dentistry help and support when they needed it during lockdown, according to a health watchdog.

A report by the Healthwatch England said there was an “unprecedented” rise in dentistry calls and complaints between July and September 2020.

The document involved talking to more than 1,300 people who said some of the main issues they experienced were access to dental care, no routine care access, limited NHS appointments and any required treatment was put on hold.

Mum of one, Victoria, struggled to get follow up treatment after she underwent emergency treatment and is also unable to register her young son at a practice unless she pays privately.

She told the report authors that the experience has left her feeling stressed and upset.

Victoria said: “None of the dentists I have seen seem at all interested in trying to find out why my teeth are crumbling, despite having to have a total of four removed over such a short space of time.

“The stress and worry about my son together with the pain, anguish and difficulties in securing my own treatment have left a big impact on my life. Due to having so many teeth removed, I don’t like my mouth now. I have no confidence in the way I look and am dreading people wanting photos at Christmas to celebrate my son’s first Christmas.

Healthwatch England Chair, Sir Robert Francis QC said: “Even before the pandemic, people were telling us about problems in accessing NHS dental appointments but since the start of the summer these reports have hugely increased.

“If we don’t improve access to NHS dental care, not only do people risk facing far greater dental problems in the future but it also puts pressure on overstretched hospitals and GPs. Untreated dental problems can lead to pain, infection and the risk of long-term harm, which is comparable with other medical conditions.

“Health and care services are working hard to deal with the pandemic, but we believe the Government and the NHS should give more attention to resolving both long-standing and COVID-related issues in dentistry.”

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