Launch of national standards for prison dentists

The Faculty of General Dental Practice (UK) has worked with several bodies to develop standards for prison dentists and those commissioning prison dental services.

The standards were drawn up by the FGDP (UK) in conjunction with the Department of Health, the Oxford Deanery, the British Association for the Study of Community Dentistry and NHS Primary Care Contracting.

The Guidelines for the Appointment of Dentists with Special Interests in Prison Dentistry is intended to help prison managers and healthcare commissioners define more closely the role and working arrangements for prison dentists.

The competency frameworks set out in the document will also help prison dentists to identify their learning needs, and undertake further training so that they can improve standards of care.

The dental health needs of prisoners differ from those of the general population. Prisoners generally have a poorer standard of oral health, with increased levels of emergency cases, higher rates of substance misuse and smoking, and underlying poor nutrition. The demand for dental care in prisons is also increasing as the prison population continues to grow.

Helen Falcon, postgraduate dental dean for NHS Education South Central (Oxford and Wessex Deaneries) and chair of the working group which developed the guidelines, said: ‘Prison dentists, along with other healthcare workers in the prison setting, are in a unique position in that they are required to balance the need to provide the best possible care to their patients with the priorities and restrictions imposed by the prison environment.

‘These include the inability to provide sedation and general anaesthesia within the prison setting, different protocols for pre and post-operative pain relief, the need to minimise referrals outside of the prison and security issues.’

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