New national guidelines will be published within weeks to iron out inconsistencies in a wide range of dental treatments.
The commissioning guides have already been drawn up by NHS England and are expected to approved for publication at a meeting later this month.
They will cover:
- Specialist dentistry services
- Special care dentistry
- Oral surgery and oral medicine
Meanwhile, three further sets of guidelines will be developed this year and made available by the end of March next year, under current plans, covering:
- Paediatric dentistry
- Restorative dentistry
- Dental microbiology, dental pathology and dental radiography.
The move follows concern about a lack of clarity and consistency in local guidance put forward by the various local area teams set up when NHS England is created.
The shake-up goes much further than fresh guidelines, previously announced, to tackle what a health minister called ‘growing concern’ about the link between dental implants and peri-implantitis.
Last year, Earl Howe – since moved in the post-election reshuffle – highlighted fears about a ‘lack of informed consent for treatment, damage to the tissue and bone surrounding the implant, and failures’.
The then-dentistry minister said the rapid rise in the treatment – a titanium screw inserted into the jaw, which fuses with the bone – had been ‘very welcome to many patients’.
But he announced that ‘clear and consistent’ guidelines were being drawn up for dentists, after a warning that bone loss is a ‘time bomb’ set to cause growing misery.
A working group – led by the outgoing chief dental officer Barry Cockcroft – was also examining how to provide better information for patients considering implants.
Now that work appears to have been expanded to also incorporate orthodontics, special care dentistry, oral surgery and the other areas listed.
An NHS spokeswoman said: ‘Management guidance around orthognathic and implant treatments is currently being developed to ensure a consistent approach amongst commissioning specialists around access to services across England.
‘It is necessary to ensure clarity and consistency in the provision of specialist dental services and as part of implementation of the five year forward view.’
Asked who was being consulted in the drawing up of the guidance, the spokeswoman said only that there were ‘representatives from all professional groups.’
She added: ‘Each working group had patient representation and there was a formal patient engagement group and an NHS England Review Group.’
The new guidance was revealed after Lord Colwyn, a former dentist and a Conservative peer, urged the Government to publish each area team’s commissioning guidelines and referral criteria.