Dental professionals urged to cut the confusion

questions copyA call for the dental profession to consolidate and collaborate in order to provide consistent messages on dental prevention aimed at parents and professionals working with children was made by Stephen Fayle at an event dedicated to the topic of dentistry and oral health.

A consultant and honorary senior lecturer in paediatric dentistry, Mr Fayle said that parents need to get the right support and advice while their children were still very young in order to prevent dental decay. What the British Society of Paediatric Dentistry (BSPD) wants to see in England, he said, is for all children to have a dental check by the age of one with delivery of key preventive advice to parents or carers. ‘We need a multi-pronged, multi-agency approach to prevention, giving parents clear and consistent preventive messages. We need to cut out confusion’.

Children’s oral health was a recurring theme throughout the morning, which was hosted by the Westminster Health Forum. Some speakers referred to the high number of general anaesthetics (GA) for tooth extractions. Mr Fayle pointed out that while the use of GA in dentistry should be restricted to situations where other methods of pain and anxiety control were not suitable, dental treatment under GA remained necessary and appropriate for many children.

The move of dental GA services into hospitals a decade-and-a-half ago, he continued, with many services also now being specialist-led, had resulted in considerable improvements in quality of outcome, patient experience and safety. However, waiting times for dental treatment under GA were still far too long in some areas, resulting in children suffering recurring episodes of dental pain, infection, and the need for repeated courses of antibiotics.

One of the problems was the relatively small numbers of paediatric dentistry specialists in England. The BSPD recommends there should be more than 500 – currently there are only around 170.

Mr Fayle also said that if the numbers of children being treated in the acute sector were to be reduced, the Community Dental Service ought to be a prime focus for the development of specialist services. Unfortunately, he said, in many part of the country, this important service is being overlooked.

The final speaker of the morning was Chief Dental Officer (CDO) Sara Hurley who talked about her policies for change. She said that she planned to create a national ‘umbrella’ programme for the delivery of prevention in England, called ‘Smile4life’. Local authorities and other agencies that are already running worthwhile prevention and oral health promotion programmes would be invited to join the programme.

On behalf of the BSPD, Mr Fayle welcomed the news. ‘We are very encouraged by the approach the CDO is taking; especially that she intends to support the continuation and development of existing schemes. Our aim now must be to ensure all children have the best chance of having good oral health. That means starting effective prevention early. We need to work with other early-years care professionals to get the key messages across to parents, and ensure that all children get to a dentist as soon as they have teeth – a dental check by one!’

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