The British Association of Dental Therapists (BADT) have said that ‘dental therapists are qualified, capable and committed to the NHS but are unable to work to the fullest of their capabilities’

This was the key message from the BADT in its submission to the House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee which has initiated an inquiry into dentistry services.

The inquiry asks a number of questions including how access to NHS dentistry could be improved.

Help more patients

The BADT’s clear and unequivocal answer is that if dental therapists were able to open a course of NHS dental treatment we could help a greater number of patients.

Currently, the GDC allows patients to have ‘direct access’ to a therapist or hygienist without seeing a dentist but NHS regulations do not allow them to open a course of treatment.

Therefore, a dental therapist can provide diagnosis and treatment to private patients for the most common dental conditions but NHS patients must always see a dentist first.

Dental therapists can carry out 80% of NHS Band 2 treatments for both children and adults.

That means: routine restorations in both deciduous and permanent teeth, extractions of deciduous teeth, administration of local anaesthetic injections (inferior dental block and infiltration analgesia), emergency replacement of crowns and fillings, placement of stainless steel crowns, pulp therapy and periodontal treatment.

If the NHS regulations were changed, therapists would also be able to:

  • Staff mobile clinics in areas of high deprivation
  • Identify patients who may need safeguarding
  • Provide domiciliary care in residential homes – or provide training to care home staff so they can check residents’ mouths
  • Carry out supervised tooth brushing programmes in schools and nurseries (or train others to do so)

A study carried out in 2015 suggested that dental therapists and hygienists should be used to screen for dental caries and periodontal disease in a bid to improve the delivery of primary dental health care.

‘Improved use of the dental team’

Debbie McGovern, president of BADT, said: ‘Research around the use of dental therapists in dentistry shows that we have the skills to both diagnose common conditions and provide treatment or refer on to a dentist when more complex treatment might be required.’

‘We could also be providing prevention and oral hygiene advice to patients and take on a training role for both.

‘We very much hope that the Health and Social Care Committee will take on board our commitment to the NHS and to our patients and this inquiry will lead to an improved use of the dental team in the delivery of dentistry services.’