Chief Dental Officer Wants Greater Role For Dental Therapists

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Chief dental officer for England, Dr Barry Cockcroft, has called for changes to the current dental system to try and reduce waiting lists, which may increase in tandem with the introduction of new check-ups.

Currently, a pilot scheme is underway across England and practices trialling new check-ups have reported an increase in waiting times, as the checks take longer. The aim of the new check-ups is to try and adopt a more preventative approach to reduce rates of decay and gum disease and government spending on dental care in the future. Under the new scheme, patients will be given a green, amber or red light, which relates to their oral health and hygiene status.

Dr Cockcroft believes that using dental therapists will help to combat waiting lists in the future, when the pilot scheme is rolled out across the country. The government is expecting the new system to be in place within the next two years and Dr Cockcroft has called for therapists to have greater involvement in day to day dentistry. By taking on some of the more minor tasks within the surgery, dentists will have more time to carry out the more complex procedures and patients will not have to wait as long for treatment.

Dr Cockcroft believes that using therapists, who have three years of training, rather than five years like dentists, will help to prevent backlogs forming. He has suggested that therapists can start to carry out procedures including the extraction of milk teeth and fillings and also called for dental nurses to take on more responsibilities, including providing children with fluoride varnish.

Speaking at the British Dental Conference, the chief dental officer said that it makes sense for dental professional to use their skills in the best way possible. Some procedures are complex and require advanced training and expertise, but others are more straightforward and it is a matter of finding the best way to treat patients quickly without compromising standards of care.

Health minister, Earl Howe, supports the notion and said that a system used by GP surgeries could work for dental services. Practice nurses see patients all day, every day and dental patients could soon be treated by dental nurses, therapists, hygienists and dentists.

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