A new NHS system is undergoing trials to see if waiting lists can be reduced; in order to tackle the growing number of patients who have to wait weeks for an appointment, dental therapists and dental assistants could stand in for dentists. If successful, the system could be rolled out countrywide within two years.
Dental therapists could be drilling and filling patient’s teeth and extracting baby teeth and dental nurses could be brought in to carry out less invasive procedures, such as fluoride varnishes, according to the chief dental officer Barry Cockcroft. Mr Cockcroft spoke to The Mail on Sunday at the British Dental Conference in Manchester, saying ‘A dentist is very highly trained and can carry out complex work such as crowns and bridges. Therapists can do extractions and fillings.’
The pilot for the new scheme introduces a traffic-light rating system, where patients are given a red, green, or amber notice to suggest what sort of condition their dental health is in, indicating what type of treatment is applicable.
Dentists largely welcomed the new ideas and Health Minister Earl Howe was in agreement, comparing it to GP practices; ‘sometimes in GP practices you see a nurse and sometimes a GP. People are used to that.’
However, not all dentists are in favour; Dr Len D’Cruz, of Woodford Dental Car in North-East London, said that ‘it’s halved the number of patients we can see and increased waiting times, which is frustrating for the practice and patients.’