How on earth have we reached the point where one in ten of us, in the sixth richest country in the world, are having to perform terrible, dangerous DIY dentistry at home?

No-one should be so desperate they have to yank out their own teeth because they cannot get an appointment with an NHS dentist for love nor money. But that’s what’s happening in today’s Britain!

Time and again people tell me they just can’t get an NHS dentist. It’s next to impossible.

One resident I met on my recent travels to Paulton just before Christmas told me she’s awake all night with toothache but that she’d just been told she would have to wait years for an appointment.

When every single North East Somerset dentist is no longer accepting new patients, it’s not surprising access to NHS dentistry has fallen off a cliff under this Government.

In fact, new stats show only a third of locals have seen a dentist in the past TWO years.

Most dentists shutting their doors to new patients is indicative of a healthcare service in painful decline, but it’s also a symptom of nearly 14 years of Conservative rule - propped up by the Lib Dems for the first five years, of course!

And it puts additional pressures on other NHS services too, I’m afraid. Think the fact rotting teeth is now the number one reason children aged 6 to 10 go to hospital.

As Metro Mayor, the desperate state of NHS dentistry concerns me for many reasons.

Children waiting in agony can mean missed school days which is incredibly damaging when it comes to educational outcomes, and life chances.

Pain has knock-on effects across our regional economy too as people take days off sick, plus the stigma of missing and decayed teeth can mean people opting out of both social and work situations.

It’s why I’ve been calling on the Health Secretary to fix this crisis, and fix it now.

That means many things, not least addressing the lack of dentists, and doing what was promised a decade ago and sorting out the broken NHS contract system once and for all.

And you know what, if that means copying Labour’s plans, such as providing 700,000 urgent dentists appointments funded by scrapping the non-dom tax status, then I’d be delighted!

But the truth is this government has created and will not fix this decay.

And that spells disaster moving forward. In fact, a report from the think-tank The Nuffield Trust warns if we continue down this path, NHS dentistry will be gone for good.

Ministers may be happy with that, but I’m not certainly not, which is why I’ll keep pressing hard on this issue.

The biggest concern of all is where dentistry now finds itself - the rest of the NHS will follow unless there is a change of direction.

Roll on the 2024 general election.