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Why I went to my GP with toothache

The Government may be obsessed with access to GPs, but its latest review of dentistry is hugely overdue

By Richard HoeyThe Government may be obsessed with access to GPs, but its latest review of dentistry is hugely overdue

Earlier this week, I uttered one of those sentences guaranteed to earn a GP's instantaneous disdain.‘I have toothache, doc,' I said. And then, for good measure: ‘I wondered if I could have some antibiotics.'It was the latest stage in what has turned into a miniature exploration of access to primary care, and I did at least apologise for getting my entry points mixed up (as well as also presenting with a medical problem).Yes, I said, I know you don't do teeth. But I explained I'd had to wait 10 days with half a molar before seeing a dentist last week, and didn't feel I could put up for that long with the waves of throbbing pain I was currently experiencing.Plus in 10 days' time I will be in Slovakia, and dentistry is one of a number of things that country is not well known for.My recent medical and dental adventures – which have also included the almost obligatory misdiagnosis in a walk-in centre – are remarkable only for how unsurprising they are.Everyone knows that access to dental care is rubbish. Even the Government admits it now, announcing another major review of dentistry last week.Yet it seems remarkable that the Department of Health has taken so long to agree to address the desperate failings in access to dentists, while banging on about access to GPs on almost a weekly basis.My GP, who hid his disdain well, suggested that heading off to Eastern Europe with half a molar plugged with what looks like chewing gum might not be the best of plans, and that I would be well advised to go to the dental hospital to have it removed.‘But I always advise patients to take a day off,' he said. ‘I went myself a while ago, waited four hours, and still didn't get seen.'Whereas in contrast to all that, I booked my appointment at my GP at 8:00 that morning, and was sitting in a consulting room an hour later.Is it any wonder that GPs are increasingly having to deal with dental problems?By Richard Hoey, Pulse editor

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