A recent survey of dental professionals has found that confidence in future NHS dentistry plans is worryingly low with almost half1 of respondents having major concerns regarding treatment and prevention balance.
The survey, which considered the opinions of 80 dental professionals, provided interesting insight into the thoughts and feelings of the profession in regards to NHS dentistry practice changes and tracked their levels of confidence.
Concerns were also raised about remuneration under new targets, career prospects and the ability to work within frameworks. But most of those surveyed remained confident that patients would continue to be happy at the service they received.
The British Society of Dental Hygiene & Therapy (BSDHT) believes that these perceptions can be altered through correct utilisation of the entire dental team and that as a whole they can exceed all expectations.
“Within dentistry all professionals have a duty to provide the best possible service to patients that they can. If dentists feel concerned about being able to provide this under an altered NHS framework then they should be encouraged to turn to dental hygienists and therapists who can play a vital role in providing NHS services, especially when it come to the balance between treatment and prevention,” commented Michaela ONeill, President of the British Society of Dental Hygiene & Therapy.
“It is worrying that almost half of those surveyed felt that through NHS dentistry they will be unable to strike a balance between treatment and prevention, especially when the key role of dental hygienists and therapists is that of providing preventative measures to stop further treatment down the line.
“By referring patients to dental hygienists and the dually qualified for preventative treatment at an early stage then other members of the dental team are freed to work towards other aspects within the framework and providing effective services for patients.”
The role of dental hygienists and therapists has evolved over the last few years and they are now able to offer many services which patients require, also meaning that the dentist’s chair is freed up for more elaborate needs.
Clinically dental hygienists and those dually qualified in Dental Hygiene and Therapy are able to carry out preventative periodontal treatments, applying topical fluorides and fissure sealants in order to reduce dental caries, and providing restorations to any part of an adult tooth as long as this does not require treatment to the nerve of the tooth.
“What this survey suggests is that dental professionals feel changes to NHS dentistry will put further pressure on their practices, but I have firm confidence that dental hygienists and therapists will be able to relieve some of these pressures if utilised correctly, creating a more efficiently functioning practice,” added Ms ONeill.
“Dental hygienists and therapists are especially keen to meet the uniquely challenging needs in the treatment of the elderly population, within residential care, and children. If they are given the support they require to do this then they have the potential to positively impact upon the running of individual practices and change the professions attitude to NHS dentistry.”
The profession is striving to do the best for patients, sometimes under seemingly difficult conditions, and to do that effective preventative treatments must be delivered; this is where dental hygienists and therapists evidently can play an integral role.
Close working relationships within the whole dental team and correct utilisation will enable the whole dentistry profession to exceed expectations when it comes to NHS dentistry.
NOTES TO EDITORS
1. Practice Plan, NHS Confidence Monitor - https://www.practiceplan.co.uk/dental-plans/the-nhs-confidence-monitor
The British Society of Dental Hygiene and Therapy (BSDHT) is a nationally recognised body that represents over 4,000 Dental Hygienists and Dental Therapists across the UK and beyond.
BSDHT maintain an on-going dialogue with the General Dental Council (GDC), the Departments of Health and all of the main groups representing dental care professionals, and attends meetings of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Dentistry, bringing dental hygiene and therapy to the attention of government ministers and MP’s.
Visit www.bsdht.org.uk for more information.
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