NHS England needs to fund preventive programmes
Michael Watson reviews some of the talks held at the BADT in Birmingham.
Last week I visited the British Association of Dental Therapists (BADT), held in Birmingham.
It was also an opportunity to hear the new chief dental officer (CDO), Sara Hurley, speak.
She told me she was in a listening mood still, but she is obviously getting to grips with the challenges that NHS dentistry and the dental team face.
The dental team
I spent most of the previous evening in the company of the BADT president, Fiona Sandom, and other senior members of the association.
It is nearly a quarter of a century since Margaret Seward launched the teamwork initiative, whilst editor of the BDJ.
Since then we have heard a lot about the dental team and working as a team, but from what I heard at Birmingham we are far from seeing a team in which the various professions are fully integrated.
Getting across the message
Speaking about children’s’ dental care, the new CDO reiterated the messages that need to be put across to parents: eat less sugar, use fluoride toothpaste and regular visits to dental care professionals.
There is nothing new about these messages.
We were preaching these, with the exception of fluoride toothpaste, back in 1962 when the BADT was formed, therapists were being trained at New Cross in London and I was an undergraduate up the road at Guys Hospital.
It has to be said that, on the whole, dentists are not good at getting these messages across.
We are better at doing things, be they a humble filling, an extraction or complex prosthetic work.
We are less good at persuading patients to take control of their oral health and cannot reach those who do not come into our practices.
This is where therapists and other dental care professionals (DCPs) come into their own.
They, not dentists, form the mainstay of prevention, especially for children.
But the money from the NHS goes to dentists, either as contract holders or associates.
If NHS England is serious about prevention it needs to allow practices to set up and fund their own preventive programmes, spearheaded by DCPs, rather than paying dentists to chase UDAs.