Set your own standards and raise the bar

Once again I am privileged to have been asked to judge on the Dentistry Awards this year and have the chance to see some great practices whose aim is to impress and raise the standards of the dental care they provide. In doing so, wonderful practice environments are created for patients and team alike. I wholeheartedly applaud this.

I rarely get political in my columns but I feel some comparisons need to be made between what I am seeing on the Dentistry Awards panel and what I hear in the press about the state of dentistry. I get the feeling that the general consensus within the informed population is that the NHS dentistry system is not allowing the access to the quality of care for patients that it should, and I have noticed this certainly within the field of periodontics over the years.

The standards are being set by outsiders who do not understand the word ‘quality’ but do understand the term ‘access’ and its application to the immediate political arena. Any quality service requires adequate investment and robust systems for delivery. Otherwise it will crumble.

I am now hearing that people cannot afford dental care and are taking out their own teeth. My response to this is two-fold. Firstly, many people choose not to afford dental care, instead preferring a trip to the sun. Those who genuinely cannot afford care should be helped by a system that invests in quality care for them but also has the knowledge and systems to target them appropriately. It is not the role of dentists who own, take the risks of running their business and have obligations to their bank manager to provide the solution for short-sighted politicians. It is a dentist’s role to perform dentistry in the best way possible for the patient in front of them.

Prevention is the key

Secondly, the best way to help people reduce dental bills and the suffering caused by dental disease is to prevent it. On an individual practice level we have many options available to us to help prevent dental disease in all its guises.

By learning about these techniques and the necessary business delivery systems, we can accurately diagnose and target each individual patient with a bespoke tailored plan much more effectively than any lumbering state run, self-serving initiative. Prevention of disease at the local practice level, designed and delivered by knowledgeable dental teams, will best serve our patients. We then need to set our pricing structures to make a profit out of prevention.

So a challenge! Why not start to deliver the very best bespoke tailored preventive dental care, truly serve patients and be part of a respected and successful profession? Getting the basics right will also allow the same patients to choose whether they would then like the more elective treatments that are available.

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