Dental prevention pilot proves successful

A SCHEME for prevention-focused dental care piloted in 73 practices in England has led to “reduced or maintained levels” of tooth decay in 90 per cent of patients, according to a Government evaluation.

The new system incentivises dentists to offer full oral health assessments and self-care plans on top of traditional treatments. In the first year of piloting the new approach, dentists also reported that 80 per cent of patients had reduced or maintained levels of gum disease and 97 per cent were satisfied with the dental care they received.

The Department of Health and Social Care has decided now to extend the pilot to a further up to 50 practices in England. A new remuneration system has been added to support dentists carrying out preventative work.

It is hoped that the scheme could be rolled out nationally from April 2020 if it can be shown to benefit patients, the NHS and dental practice following a thorough evaluation.

Health Minister Steve Brine said: "The government has made great progress in improving the oral health of patients and tooth decay among children continues to decrease ‒ but there is more we can do.

"Our new proposed NHS dental contract focuses on prevention and quality of care and will be thoroughly tested to ensure it is financially sustainable for the NHS, patients and dentists."

However, the BDA has called on ministers to be honest that their stated goals to maintain access and embed prevention in NHS dentistry cannot be achieved on a slashed NHS dental primary care budget.

The BDA's Chair of General Dental Practice Henrik Overgaard-Nielsen said: "It's good to see wider testing of the prototypes, but when the one variable ministers won't change is funding cuts, we are unlikely to see progress.

"Key objectives for maintaining access, spending more time with patients and improving their oral health will not be delivered against the clock or on the cheap. We are already seeing practices having to donate time to make this new model work. In its 70th year we cannot expect goodwill or charity to be the foundation of any part of our NHS."