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Extension to dental pilot scheme 'will improve dental health'

More dental practices are to join a trial prioritising preventative dentistry in England
WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Sheena Meredith
dentist and patient

5th October 2012 - A pilot programme exploring new ways that dentists can help improve the oral health of their patients is to be extended.

The Department of Health says it will mean more dentists giving practical tips to prevent dental problems before they appear, as part of a plan to modernise NHS dentistry.

Since last September, dentists from 70 practices in England have been trialling new ways of working. The extension will mean around another 25 practices will join the pilot programme next April.

Spit, don't rinse

The Department of Health says that one of the key initiatives is to give people simple tips that, if adopted, could cut their risk of tooth decay by 40%. For instance:

  • Spit after brushing don’t rinse. This can help beat tooth decay as it will allow fluoride from the toothpaste to strengthen teeth
  • Brush for at least two minutes twice a day, preferably morning and night
  • Use a toothpaste that contains the correct level of fluoride for adults
  • Take extra time to reach every part of the mouth and ensure all surfaces are brushed
  • Limit the amount of sugar you eat and drink at meal times and don’t eat sugary snacks between meals

Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation tells BootsWebMD that patients in the pilot areas can expect to see a step-change in the care they receive when they have their regular check up. "All the previous systems have been geared around what you do to a patient, from examination, X-rays, scaling at the preventive end through to how many fillings, crowns and bridges that you do," he says, "so it's always been based on an output model rather than an outcome model".

He continues: "What the new pilots are aiming to do is introduce more of a patient registration system, similar to doctors. Currently you're not registered with a dentist, you're only tied to a dentist for that one course of treatment."

Red, amber, green

Dr Carter says future fees payable to dentists "will be based on the condition of your mouth, what treatment you had in the past and what you're likely to need in the future".

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.

"The aim will be to move people from the amber and red towards a green situation where they're needing less in the way of intervention and treatment," Dr Carter says. "In addition there will be outcome measures related ... to the oral health of the population of the practice - so improvement in the levels of gum disease, reductions in how many children are experiencing decay, and so on."

The government says that practices taking part in the pilot are helping to fine tune different elements of dental care that will eventually form the basis of a new contract with NHS dentists.

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