Spit and polish for the new dental contract

Spitting may be considered an unpleasant habit – but in terms of healthy teeth it can make a world of difference to your smile. Dentists across the country are advising patients to think about their dental hygiene habits as part of a renewed focus on better oral health.

Small changes like spitting instead of rinsing after brushing your teeth can help them to absorb fluoride from the toothpaste and protect your mouth from disease.

Giving simple tips to help patients prevent dental problems before they appear is a major part of the plan to modernise NHS dentistry. Today, the government has announced it will extend its dental pilot scheme which is working to provide the evidence needed to develop the new dental contract. Since last September, dentists from 70 practices have been trialling new ways of working – around 25 extra practices will now join the pilot programme as it expands.

Lord Howe, health minister, said: 'Patients have the biggest impact on their own oral health and making them more aware of ways to prevent disease is vital. 'I am delighted with the progress made since 2010 as more than a million new patients have now seen an NHS dentist. I am confident the new contract, when finalised, will take dentistry successfully into the future. It will have preventative care at its heart – and the pilots have a key role to play in making sure we get this right.'

The pilot sites have been fine tuning different elements of the new contract. Inventive ways to encourage adults to take a bit more care with their oral health are being trialled and significant steps have been made to protect the teeth of children.

The number of fluoride varnishes – a treatment which prevents tooth decay – has increased by 63% in the last year. Patients at the pilot sites are given a thorough dental check up and then a traffic light rating of red, amber or green depending on how healthy their mouth is. Dentists can then recommend a long term care plan for patients – and offer advice for better self care.

Barry Cockcroft, chief dental officer for England said: 'The pilot scheme has been received incredibly positively by dentists and a lot of excellent work has been carried out so far.

'Significant improvements have been made in oral health since the 1970s and making people more aware of everyday things they can do to keep their mouths healthy will help this trend continue.'

The new pilot sites will join the scheme from April.

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