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Championing the role of the dentist in overall health

Denplan breaks down key statistics from it’s Oral Healthcare Report, highlighting the role of dentistry in the overall health of the public.

In our recent Oral Healthcare Report, we revealed the vital role of the dentist in public life. More than one quarter (28%) of adults surveyed said they had asked their dentist about problems other than their oral health. A majority (59%) said they actually see the same dentist more often than their doctor.

We are all well aware of the broader role of the dentist. However, there is common misconception by the public and often politicians that oral health sits in isolation to wider health. We understand that oral health is intrinsically linked to overall health. A more preventive approach to oral healthcare is essential to minimising the risk of more serious issues arising.

Current challenges in dentistry

However, current challenges around access to many NHS services, coupled with a cost of living crisis, mean that many won’t prioritise a proactive approach. In fact, our Oral Healthcare Report revealed that sadly, many people cancelled appointments because they couldn’t afford them. They then paid for emergency treatment when problems had worsened.

More than half of adults surveyed pay for dental care as it’s received. It’s therefore difficult for them to budget for treatment over the course of a year.

Yet despite this, the attitude of the UK public is clearly one of appreciation towards the profession. A quarter (25%) of Brits that visit the dentist have seen the same dentist for the last 10 years. Two thirds (66%) of people reported consistency meant they felt comfortable with their dentist. Finally, 91% of people who attend the dentist at least every two years said it’s important to trust your dentist.

Dentists’ contribution to wider health

With dentists being one of the more regular points of contact for patients, their role in wider health is apparent. The survey reveals three in 10 (28%) have spoken to their dentist about other health problems. Further, 15% of respondents have had dentists refer them to another health practitioner during their appointment. Of those that were referred, 20% were diagnosed with skin condition, 15% with iron-deficiency (anaemia), 10% with diabetes and a further 10% with a viral condition (eg herpes).

However, the current landscape of health within the UK continues to face extreme pressure. We understand that dentists are already stretched. This growing shift of the wider healthcare burden is indicative of the mounting pressure on health services.

Dental services often play second fiddle to primary healthcare in policy, but they’re servicing the same communities with the same needs and identifying problems. To keep communities healthy, there needs to be a joined-up approach to the way that dentistry is viewed within healthcare and government.

Looking beyond contract reform

When considering how best to improve access to dentistry, we must not consider the reform of the NHS contract in isolation. We must also recognise the role of mixed and private practices in communities, and wider initiatives such as making better use of the wider dental team to carry out a range of services.

As 2023 comes to an end, we can take comfort in the fact that dentistry has taken up much more space in the public sphere, with the inquiry into NHS dentistry, the workforce plan and early commitments from the Labour party.

We now enter an election year, where our voice, as an industry, will be more important than ever. We are committed to championing the role of dentists with key political stakeholders and demonstrating the role a mixed model of private and NHS dentistry can provide in supporting the oral health of the nation and also protect the welfare and wellbeing of dentists.

Read the full Oral Health Report here.

To hear more from Denplan, follow them on Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook.

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