APPG Chair urges MPs to see realities of salaried dental services

14 June 2011

Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Dentistry, Sir Paul Beresford, has challenged fellow MPs to visit their local salaried dental services to see for themselves the work community dentists are doing. He was speaking at the APPG’s 2011 summer reception, which took place today in Parliament. Welcoming an audience of politicians and members of the dental community, he urged all MPs to visit their local salaried dental health service to see the problems they tackle first hand and to ensure services are joined up in their constituencies. 

Earl Howe, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State with responsibility for dentistry, gave the opening speech at the event and said it was an exciting time for the profession, with the launch of the pilots that will inform the new dental contract. 

He highlighted the progress made over the last 20 years in dental health, with the level of tooth decay in children dropping dramatically, particularly for 12-15 year olds, but said there were still improvements to be made with younger children’s oral health, and especially the issue of tackling regional variations and health inequalities. He explained that the Government has given a strong commitment to improving children’s dental health, but that a broad cross-sector approach was needed to ensure young children and their families access dental care, maintain good oral hygiene and adopt healthy diets. “The profession should be proud of progress made so far, but there is still hard work to follow”, he said, calling on professionals to work together to ensure good oral health for both children and adults. 

He also praised the work of schemes such as Manchester Smiles, the dental public health initiative being led by the final speaker at the event, NHS Manchester Consultant in Dental Public Health Colette Bridgman, and its success in engaging with children, families and a wide range of professionals and services to ensure those who do not normally access dental health services are reached. 

Dr Bridgman gave an overview of the Manchester Smiles scheme, which focuses on ensuring dental health is integral to public health and promotes partnerships working across a range of professionals to address the health inequalities in the region. “In Manchester, 40 per cent of children are in poverty and poor oral health is a mirror of the context of their lives. So, this is not just a dental problem, it cuts across a range of services and should be the business of all”, she said. 

The Manchester Smiles scheme identifies the ‘missing thousands’ – the children who fall through the net as they do no attend a dentist regularly, and are therefore more likely to suffer from dental decay that is preventable. The scheme links up dental practices, schools, salaried dental services, school nurses and safeguarding children teams to provide timely preventative intervention, dental care and advice. Part of the scheme is the ‘Buddy Practice’, an initiative that sees dental teams visit schools at ‘drop off’ and ‘pick up’ times to give children a brief examination and apply fluoride varnish. Parents get advice on how to protect their child’s teeth at home and children are given a toothbrush and toothpaste, to encourage a good brushing routine. Children are then followed up after two months with a second session in the school for those who have not attended a full check-up at the dental surgery after the first session. 

Dr Bridgman concluded: “The outcomes of the scheme speak for themselves. A large number of children are captured and those who are in pain get treatment. This has a knock-on effect to improve school performance. Dentists have been very enthusiastic about the scheme and welcome the opportunity to get out of the surgery and gain a better understanding of who does what in the system. There is great potential to roll-out this scheme in other parts of the country which have an identified need.”

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