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Dental expert calls for warnings on fizzy drinks to fight high levels of tooth decay in children

Wed

According to a senior dentist at the Royal College of Surgeons, Britain is in the grip of a ‘national crisis’ with the level of tooth decay in children rising rapidly; figures revealed that 46,500 children were admitted to hospital in the last year to have teeth removed, with 26,000 of those under the age of nine. Professor Nigel Hunt, Dean of the Faculty of Dental Surgery, is calling for sugary foods and fizzy drinks to have warnings on the labels, similar to those used on cigarette packets to warn of the dangers of smoking.

Professor Hunt said that the dental services were struggling to cope with the influx of patients requiring tooth extractions; he added that the situation is ‘unacceptable’ and said that this is not something that can go ignored for much longer. He went on to say that ‘we need to prevent children from reaching the stage where they need to undergo general anaesthetic in a hospital setting in the first place. We want to see a clear government strategy that raises awareness of the importance of simple measures such as reducing sugar consumption or visiting a dentist and drives up standards of oral health nationally.’ He also called for sweets and sugary drinks to be labelled with warnings to help parents make healthier choices for their children.

The Department of Health released a statement saying ‘We are radically changing NHS dentistry, so that dentists will be paid for keeping the nations’ teeth healthy, rather than just for treating problems as they arise. NHS dentistry is free for children and we strongly recommend parents take children for regular check-ups.’

Dentists say the Government is failing NHS patients

Tue

As the pressure for dentist to take on new patients increases, dental professionals are questioning government policies on payment and patient registration, with one dentist saying that the system is failing NHS patients. One in three NHS dentists in England is refusing to take on new NHS patients and patients are facing a waiting list of up to nine months for those surgeries that are taking on new patients.

Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, said that the issues needed to be addressed ‘imminently’ or ‘we are going to see a repeat of queues round the block if somebody does manage to open a new NHS surgery.’ He added that ‘dentists would like to be doing more NHS work but are unable to because they’re unable to get the contracts to do it.’

According to NHS regulations, dentists have to be clear about their availability and should not require NHS registration before a patient can get treatment. A spokesperson for the Department of Health said ‘It is not acceptable for dentists to mislead patients about their services. Practices need to be clear on whether they accept new patients, the length of their waiting lists and charges.’

Patients in the Black Country have to travel to find dental treatment

Sun

People wishing to see a dentist in Dudley are having to travel to other parts of the Black Country, such as Birmingham and Solihull, to find a surgery that will take on new patients. Only one consultant in the area was found to be providing services out of Russells Hall Hospital, so more and more people are travelling further afield to access NHS dental care, particularly those that are hoping to start orthodontic treatment.

Dudley Local Dental Committee chairperson Sue Stevens said that this constituted a ‘major problem’ with the dental services available. Sue said that children with the most severe orthodontic conditions were unable to find treatment and were left on a waiting list for many months before speaking to a consultant – if an appointment was made at all. She added ‘The commissioners at NHS England in Birmingham seem to be content to forget about provision of services in Dudley.’

Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust chief executive Paula Clark said that orthodontic services in the area were currently closed to new referrals as attempts to recruit a new consultant proved fruitless. She added that this was ‘in line with a national shortage of orthodontists.’ The post is currently being advertised again in order to replace the previous consultant who retired recently.

People in West Yorkshire are using emergency clinics because of lack of access to NHS care

Wed

According to an industry watchdog, patients in West Yorkshire are using emergency clinics because they cannot access NHS dental treatment. Healthwatch has said that the NHS has a ‘poor understanding of what patients want’ and NHS England is currently reviewing the urgent dental care service to try and improve access to immediate treatment.

Research carried out by Healthwatch suggests that a high percentage of dental patients in West Yorkshire do not have access to an NHS dentist – 60% of the 250 people asked agreed with this, saying that they were not registered with an NHS dentist. The watchdog also found that more younger people and people from South Asian Communities used the treatment more than other groups within the community.

It was commented by Healthwatch that ‘people use this service because they can’t find a local NHS dentist. NHS England have not spent time properly understanding why people use unplanned dental clinics and what patients want.’ Additionally, they added that the services on offer were not meeting the needs of patients in West Yorkshire.

Alison Knowles, Locality Director of NHS England for Yorkshire and the Humber, said that accessing treatment was obviously important and added that NHS England had funded treatment for 10,000 extra patients in the area and the body is now ‘reviewing the urgent dental care service with the specific aim of further increasing the funding that’s targeted at routine access to dental care.’

Sales of DIY dental kits on the rise

Wed

Dental kits that allow patients to carry out DIY dental work at home are becoming popular as more people look for a cheaper alternative to costly professional treatment. The kits, which include materials to carry out fillings and repair crowns, can be bought on the high street for as little as five pounds. According to The Guardian, Department for Health figures suggest that more people than ever are receiving dental treatment on the NHS but sales of products such as DenTek, a DIY repair kit, are still said to be on the rise.

John Wildman, professor of health economics at Newcastle University told the paper that people with lower income in poorer areas of the country don’t take part in surveys and don’t visit their GP’s, which is how they essentially fall through the cracks when research is carried out into DIY dentistry.

According to British Dental Health Foundation, one in five people admitted they would carry out DIY dentistry, such as extracting their own teeth, because of the cost of dental treatment.

Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, said that ‘DIY dentistry is both dangerous and unnecessary. There are too many senseless examples of people either pulling out the wrong tooth or ending up with an infection. It is all too easy to make the problem worse, which could result in more invasive and expensive treatment.’

Man pulls out his own teeth after failing to find a dentist

Tue

A Gulf war veteran has resorted to carrying out his own dental work after he couldn’t find an NHS dentist that was taking on new patients. Ian Boynton, 42, of Beverley, Yorkshire, had not had his teeth examined since he was in the army over ten years ago. He claimed he has tried to get in at around thirty different surgeries in the past eight years but was unsuccessful and when his teeth started to hurt in 2006 he had no choice but to try out some DIY dental treatment

Ian first started to experience pain in his front tooth and resorted to pulling the troublesome tooth out with pliers because it was hurting so much; he said ‘Amazingly, it did not hurt as much as you might think. I think I’d been prising it that much in the meantime that I’d been killing the nerve.’

Altogether, Ian has pulled out thirteen of his own teeth in the last two years alone and now only has two left on the top jaw. The former army medic served in Iraq in 2003 but found himself on benefits and unable to afford private dental care after leaving the service due to injury. He said ‘It’s a horrible situation to be in when you can’t afford to go to the dentist when my teeth were so bad. I desperately needed a dentist because, although I’m no longer in pain, I need to have false teeth as I’m finding it difficult to eat.’

Demand for cosmetic dentistry fuels spending at UK dentists

Tue

As more and more people seek the perfect smile, dentists are enjoying a boom in business in the UK; experts estimate that turnover could have increased by almost a quarter over the past four years. Cosmetic dentistry at the 100 largest firms in the country reached almost a billion pounds last year, with an average figure of £10million for each surgery.

Peter Alderson, managing director of finance company LDF, said that the British people have embraced cosmetic dental treatments, such as whitening and orthodontics, which is reflected in the incomes at the country’s top dental surgeons. Mr Alderson added ‘Increasing numbers of dental patients are… willing to pay significant amounts of money for cutting-edge services, especially if they are delivered in a more exclusive, private clinic-style environment.’ He went on to say that, thanks to investments in new equipment, such as the latest IT systems, surgeries are able to bring new patients in for various modern treatments. Although this is expensive for most practices, it seems to have paid off if the latest numbers are anything to go by.

Official figures suggest that 200 dentists in England earn over £300,000 a year by doing a mixture of private and NHS dental work. The figures on private dental work only are not currently available and are not thought to be published.

Around 4,000 children in Wales are waiting over three years for braces

Mon

According to one NHS orthodontist, thousands of children in west Wales are waiting years to get orthodontic treatment, due to lack of funding caused by a massive backlog in patient care. It has been suggested that even if funding was doubled, waiting lists in Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire, would take five years to clear.

David Howells, who runs Pencastell Orthodontics, the only NHS Orthodontist in west Wales, spoke to BBC Radio Wales about the problem, saying that the clinic only has the capacity to treat around 800 cases a year, leaving thousands of children waiting longer than three years to get the orthodontic treatment they need. Mr Howells blamed the problem on NHS funding, rather than the lack of available dentists; he also added that the issue began in 2006 when new dental contracts were imposed on NHS dentists. He explained that dental practices used to manage their own patient lists but with the health board taking over this aspect of treatment it has led to ‘wasted funding’ which could be used to help more patients.

The Welsh government released a statement saying that an outreach programme had been set up to try and combat the problem. The statement said that the government has invested £700,000 in improving patient referrals for dental and orthodontic treatment, in an effort to make the system ‘more efficient and reduce waiting times.’

Dentists warn that patients are at risk due to the rising cost of dental treatment

Wed

Almost a million people in the UK have avoided attending dental appointments since 2010 because they are unable to afford the rising cost of care – some patients are at risk of overdosing on painkillers as they try to self-medicate in an attempt to avoid the high prices of NHS dentistry.

NHS England revealed that 951,000 people in the UK chose not to visit the dentist when they needed to in the last four years, as the cost of a basic NHS check-up rose 12% during that time period – rising from £16.50 to £18.50.

Nurse Michelle Good man at the NHS 111 helpline told the Mirror that there has been a ‘huge increase’ in patients trying to access treatment but being unable to do so due to the cost. She added that this has caused some to ‘unintentionally overdose with over-the-counter analgesics.’

This rise in dental patients avoiding the dentist has also put pressure onto hospitals that are already over-stretched as many people have decided to go to A&E so that they don’t have to pay for treatment for things like toothache. This problem has been called a ‘false economy’ by shadow health secretary Andy Burnham.

Patients in North Lancashire face long wait for NHS dentist

Fri

More than 6,000 patients in North Lancashire are on a waiting list to register with an NHS dentist, whilst others are facing a long journey to get treatment due to high demand in the area. NHS England is now planning to open a new dental practice in Lancaster to try and get the problem under control.

However, some people living in Lancashire are becoming frustrated with the wait and there are several residents that have been waiting longer than a year to register with a clinic.

Jackie Forshaw, Head of Primary Care (Lancashire) at NHS England, said that the body had ‘identified pressure on existing services’ in the area and found that ‘approximately 4.5% of the resident population [are] currently seeking access to NHS Dental Services.’ Despite this demand, it is thought that 90% of respondents in a recent survey said that they successfully arranged an NHS dental appointment. She added that ‘All patients in Lancashire have access, within 24 hours, to immediate dental pain relief through the emergency dental services that operate seven days a week in daytime and evening.’

MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood, Eric Ollerenshaw, said that there are ‘issues’ with a previous contract from 2007 that is stopping negotiations for new NHS dentists in Lancashire ; he added that some dentists decided it would be easier to stay private in order to avoid ‘the endless form filling’ that comes with contract renegotiations.

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