A man says he was forced to pull out one of his own teeth after waiting more than 18 months to find an NHS dentist.
Engineer David Woodhouse, 62, said he was left with no option but to take drastic action after being left unable to get a spot at a surgery near his home.
He 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.
And despite pleading for an appointment he was left to perform his own removal with a pair of pliers.
He said: “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 removal itself was considerably less painful than the long-term pain I was experiencing.”
Healthwatch Cornwall, the county’s health watchdog, said some people had been waiting more than three years to register with a dentist.
Mr Woodhouse, of Ventongimps, near Truro, Cornwall, said he would be willing to travel up to 100 miles to see a dentist.
He added: “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.
“I tried to get an NHS dentist. I went online – nothing. I went on a waiting list – nothing.”
According to NHS England there are more than 48,000 people on the waiting list just in Devon and Cornwall.
A search on the NHS website reveals that just one practice in the Duchy is accepting new patients.
Mr Woodhouse added: “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.
“I would go anywhere within half a day’s drive – I do not care.”
NHS England said: “We would encourage anyone with an urgent dental need to contact the emergency dental helpline in Cornwall”.
The spokesman added that about 27,000 people have been placed with NHS dentists in Devon and Cornwall in the past 12 months.
by Tom Bevan