Hundreds of thousands of patients visit GPs for dental issues, new study confirms

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A new study suggests that more than 300,000 people visit their GP for dental advice or treatment every year.

New research conducted by the British Journal of General Practice claims that 380,000 patients go to their GP every year on account of dental issues. As part of their research, which aimed to see why patients were consulting their GP rather than a dentist, the team interviewed adults who had been to see their doctor with dental problems. Participants were recruited via social media, online and print adverts and word of mouth.

The research team found that there were various factors that affected decision-making. Some of those interviewed were confused about their symptoms, while others believed that GPs were able to treat dental problems. Other reasons included ease of seeing a GP rather than a dentist, anxiety related to going to the dentist and cost. GP services are free of charge, while NHS dentistry is only partially subsidised.

In response to their findings, the researchers have called for greater clarity for patients, many of whom don’t realise that GPs aren’t trained to diagnose or treat dental conditions, and improved access to dental services.

Dr Steve Mowle, honorary treasurer at the Royal College of GPs has encouraged patients to contact their dentist when faced with symptoms like toothache and sore and bleeding gums. GP services are already under pressure and GPs are unable to provide patients with the kind of treatment they require when they present with dental symptoms.

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