Patient care

The College has a role in sharing information with patients on primary care and oral health

Dental attendance

Regular visits to the dentist are recommended for every patient of any age. Ideally, visits should begin from the very first year of life. 

We know that only sixty per cent of the population visit the dentist regularly. This is not ideal because oral and dental disease – much of which can be prevented and possibly reversed if found early – can painlessly cause significant damage over time . Prevention is better than cure.

If problems are ignored and not acted on until there cause urgent symptoms, options for treatment may be severely limited. Early intervention – addressing a problem at the earliest opportunity – will always provide the best possible outcome. 

Dental health care professionals will never ‘judge’ any individual, regardless of the time elapsed since the last visit. They are genuinely pleased to welcome every patient through the door at any time. 

They recognise that some patients might be hesitant or anxious to attend for a whole range of reasons. These reasons may include outdated attitudes to dentistry, exaggerated tales of others’ bad experiences, or negative memories from a visit some years ago.

Please be assured that dentistry has come a long way in recent times. Your local dental practice is staffed by professionals who:

  • Listen to their patients and connect with them
  • Will take time to reassure patients and answer all questions honestly and promptly
  • Are keen to build a relationship of trust with each patient
  • Wish to understand individual patient needs
  • Work with patient – taking time to get it right
  • Are capable, professional and competent in whatever they do
  • Provide authoritative, objective advice on how to maintain oral health
  • Are committed to ‘teeth for life’ as the ‘gold standard’
  • Recognise the value of oral health and dental attractiveness to wellbeing
  • Will always be willing to explain and describe procedures to individual patients, and responsive to their wishes. 

The time between visits is usually determined by an individual’s state of health, susceptibility to oral and dental disease and past needs. A healthy mouth usually requires less ongoing maintenance. Whatever the circumstances, the interval between appointments should never be any longer than two years, even for patients who have lost all their teeth and wear complete dentures. You are encouraged to follow advise given on the interval between visits to the dentist. 

Dentists conduct a full assessment at each new patient and recall visit. This assessment addresses a range of issues, including the presence or absence of:

  • Forms of  tooth decay and wear and gum disease
  • Diseases of the jaws and jaw joints
  • Problems with the soft tissue of the mouth
  • Any evidence of oral cancer or precancerous changes

Oral health and wellbeing

Oral health is an essential element of any individual’s health and sense of wellbeing. It is the third most expensive health condition to manage – after diabetes and cardio-vascular disease. 

There is strong evidence of the links between poor oral health and a number of other health conditions, including cancer, obesity, diabetes, dementia and Covid-19.

Multi-agency, interprofessional working has been shown to be effective and beneficial to treatment outcomes and offers opportunities for much-needed cost savings. This approach, as included in the aims of the College of General Dentistry, should make better use of the expertise of dental health professionals. For example, dentists are often the first to identify conditions such as eating disorders and substance abuse, given that they are often associated with the erosion of teeth. This is an exciting area for developments in dentistry. 

Dental attractiveness

Dental attractiveness is of course compromised by missing, diseased and uneven teeth. Also, unsightly staining and discolouration of teeth, red and swollen gums, and poorly matched fillings and crowns all contribute to low self-esteem and a lack of personal confidence.  Correction of such problems, which can often be achieved by means of simple, non-invasive interventions, can make a huge difference to individuals’ mental health and quality of life. Dental teams are sensitive to, and suitably trained to manage such difficulties. Giving a patient back an attractive smile is one of the many skills of the dental team. 

Emergency dental care

A dental emergency can be a sudden event, including:

  • Trauma to the teeth/mouth, following a fall or accident
  • Loss of a filling or crown
  • Damage to a denture
  • Failure of a tooth – a fracture or crack 
  • Dental abscess – a painful bacterial infection 

It is more common, however, that untreated dental decay (dental caries) affecting the pulp (nerve) of a tooth is the cause of the emergencies. This is why dental health professionals always recommend regular recalls and ‘prevention being better than cure’. 

Dental of emergencies, which can be extremely painful, are best manged as quickly as possible. Doctors, pharmacists, and Accident and Emergency staff are less likely to be able to provide the care required to manage dental emergencies given that they do not have the necessary specialist equipment. 

Pain killers will help relieve pain in an emergency but will not treat the underlying cause of the pain. Similarly, antibiotics may be part of the solution but rarely manage the problem when taken alone. Indeed, attempting to treat dental pain with just pain killers and antibiotics may mask the underlying problem and make it all the more difficult to diagnose and manage effectively.

Dentistry and the COVID pandemic

Visits to the dentist are currently different to the traditional walk-in and appointment systems.

To protect both patients and dental teams, various safeguards have been developed to minimise chances of transmitting the virus. These include:

  • Sanitising and washing hands and wearing masks as appropriate
  • Social distancing
  • Lone attendance – no family or friends to attend with you
  • Telephone consultations or forms to complete to check if patients have COVID symptoms
  • Deep cleaning of all areas and equipment after each patient

There are specific exceptions to these measures; for example, if a patient with learning difficulties needs a family member or advocate for personal support. Please be assured that at every stage of the visit – prior to arrival, on arrival and when leaving – patient safety and care is of paramount importance. 

Further details will be available on request from your dental team. Please get in touch if you have any concerns or questions. 

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College of General Dentistry (CGDent), 124 City Road, London, EC1V 2NX
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