A group of dentists in the U.K. is urging the government to take action and improve Brits' oral health. A dental professional organization released a report earlier this week with 18 points of reform to combat the number of children being admitted to hospitals and the increasing rates of oral cancer.
The Faculty of Dental Surgery (FCS) at the Royal College of Surgeons, a professional organization for dentists and specialists who treat complex dental problems, wrote the report, titled "Actions for the government to improve oral health." It specifically focuses on prevention, better access to care, and improved safety measures.
"With the number of children being admitted to hospitals for tooth extractions rising, we cannot afford to wait," stated Nigel Hunt, PhD, FDS, dean of the Faculty of Dental Surgery and the president of the British Orthodontic Society, in a press release. "We want to see a clear government strategy that raises awareness of the importance of simple measures, such as reducing sugar consumption or visiting a dentist, and drives up the standards of oral health nationally."
Poor oral health conditions are causing an unnecessary strain on the National Health Service (NHS), the authors noted. For example, one-third of 5-year-olds and adults in the U.K. have from caries, and dental decay is the most common cause of hospital admission among children 5 to 9 years old. Furthermore, oral cancer rates have risen by 30% in the past decade, according to the report.
To help solve this crisis, the report authors urge the government to place emphasis on preventive strategies, which account for half of the report's points. In fact, "prevention should be at the forefront of all policies to improve oral health," the authors wrote.
"We need to prevent children from reaching the stage where they need to undergo general anesthetic in a hospital setting in the first place," Dr. Hunt stated. "By encouraging good oral health practice amongst children now, we will decrease the likelihood of further problems into their adulthood."
The FCS report's prevention strategies include the following:
- Creating a children's oral health education program that at least targets in-need populations
- Extending the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination program to boys in the U.K.
- Raising awareness about the impact of sugar on oral health
- Encouraging community water fluoridation initiatives
The prevention section of the report also focused heavily on professional collaboration. For example, dentists are already taking a more systemic health approach with their patients, and the FCS would like other healthcare professionals to consider adding oral health education and prevention in their specialties. Additionally, they recommend that other doctors get trained to recognize the signs and symptoms of oral cancer.
Access and safety
In addition to prevention, the report addressed access-to-care and safety concerns. For example, some NHS dental services are covered in certain regions while neglected in others, and access to care can vary by neighborhood.
As a result, the report authors asked the government to assess factors that affect access to care. They also asked for a campaign that reinforces the importance of regular dental checkups and to make existing clinical guidelines clearer and applied consistently.
Furthermore, older dentists and specialists from outside the U.K. may not be up to date on newer clinical standards and safety procedures, which may put patients at risk. The report authors call for stricter examinations for foreign-trained dentists who want to be put on the U.K. specialist list and also an update to current regulations.