Standards fit for modern dentistry

Ian Mills speaks out about setting standards, and why they must be used responsibly to promote quality improvement.

This month sees the release of the fully revised second edition of the FGDP(UK) Standards in Dentistry guidance.

Since the first edition was published, 12 years ago, there have been significant changes in dentistry.

These changes are not solely limited to clinical and technological advances, but have also affected the oral health expectations of our patients and the standards of care, which we should be expected to provide.

General dental practitioners find themselves operating in a very different environment to that of 2006.

Patients now have access to much greater levels of information, which allows them to participate more actively in decisions about their health.

This has considerable benefit in terms of promotion of good oral health, patient empowerment and supporting self-care.

However, it can create its own challenges, as dentists strive to manage rising expectations within an increasingly discerning population.

This is a particular challenge within the NHS where the current contract fails to incentivise, or support, the delivery of high-quality care.

Standards of care

A growing consumerist approach within dentistry has helped drive standards of care, but it has also contributed to a more challenging landscape for dentists in terms of complaints and litigation.

Setting standards undoubtedly supports the dental team in delivering higher quality care, but it is important that such standards are used responsibly to promote quality improvement and not simply viewed as an inflexible tool to beat an already demoralised profession.

The concept of person-centred care is predicated on the provision of bespoke care that is tailored to a patient’s individual needs, and this must be respected when interpreting and applying standards guidance.   

What has not changed over the last 12 years is the commitment of our profession to improve oral health and provide the highest standards of care for our patients.

The revised guidance reflects the commitment of a broad team, both at Peninsula Dental School and the FGDP (UK), to develop an indispensable reference guide that support members of the dental team in delivering that objective.

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