Nearly 400,000 dental patients consulting GPs

A NEW qualitative report has examined the reasons why an estimated 380,000 people in the UK consult GPs for dental problems each year.

The research published in the British Journal of General Practice is based on semi-structured interviews conducted with 39 adults who in the previous 12 months had chosen to consult with a GP in regard to a dental issue.

The researchers from Cardiff University found that consultation behaviour was influenced mainly by patients’ interpretations of their symptoms, perceptions of the scope of primary care, the comparative ease of navigating medical versus dental care systems and previous experiences of dental care, including dental anxiety and dissatisfaction with prior treatment. Willingness and ability to pay for dental care were also factors.

The authors conclude: "Effective interventions will need to break down the barriers preventing access to dental care. Accessible public-facing information on where to seek care for dental problems is required, and general practice teams should be able to signpost patients who present with dental problems, if appropriate. Dental providers should also be encouraged to maintain timely access to urgent care for their patients."

Dr Steve Mowle, speaking on behalf of the RCGP, said: "The health service is struggling across the board at the moment, and we recognise that patients may struggle to get an NHS dental appointment, just as we know many are finding it difficult to get a GP appointment.

"While GPs are trained to deal with a multitude of health concerns, we are not trained to treat dental problems – there are best left to the care of a professional dentist or, if required, urgent care services."