A missed appointment and resulting £25 charge led Alex to become a DIY dentist. Using an emergency over-the-counter dental first aid kit, bought from a pound store, the 38-year-old building engineer from Glasgow began fixing his own teeth rather than run up bills. “I couldn’t justify going and getting my teeth out when we can’t afford nappies,” he said.
His partner, Tilly, gave up her teaching job when their eldest son was diagnosed with leukaemia five years ago. When the recession hit, Alex found work hard to come by. A jobcentre interview clashed with an appointment to fill some cavities, and Alex concluded that the family could not afford his dental work.
In a country that prides itself on free healthcare, DIY dentistry is an almost Victorian notion of hardship. But poverty and inequality – and the increasing stigma attached to both – are blocking access to healthcare for the poorest people in the UK, and grim tales of a black economy are on the rise.