MP Alison Seabeck held an adjournment debate on oral health in the House of Commons earlier this week, bringing to attention the rising costs of oral health care.
During her speech, the Labour MP referred to the Smiling Britain event, that last month brought together key oral health experts to discuss the European Platform for Better Oral Health report.
She focused on the Platform’s key message of preventative care and highlighted that the new dental contracts, currently being piloted in the UK, aimed to incentivise dentists to focus on preventive measures.
The Labour MP for Plymouth, Moor View, paid tribute to the UK’s progress compared to ‘European neigbours’ but acknowledged ‘there is certainly still room for improvement’ and warned that the cost of dental treatment remained an issue for many families.
Government health minster Dr Dan Poulter agreed there was no room for complacency and championed the new dental contracts.
He said: ‘Notwithstanding the fact that we have made good progress historically, and that the European platform on oral health report highlighted the good things we do in this country, we must never be complacent.
‘We must continue to ensure that we drive further improvements and reduce the inequalities in access and in oral health that still exist and are very real in some parts of the country.’
He said: ‘Elements of the new dental contract are being tested in 70 practices at the moment, and we are rolling them out to an additional 20 to 25 practices as part of the pilot to make sure that that contract is fit for purpose.
The health minister also highlighted the 43% rise in fluoride varnish applications for adults and 64% rise for children and explained: ‘The fundamental focus is on moving away from a reactive service to a preventive care service.
‘That will both improve oral health by reducing the incidence of cancer, and give children the best start in life by engendering good dental health habits through the involvement of hygienists and other practitioners. Our aim is to move dental care on to a more stable footing.’
In her address, Alison paid tribute to the Peninsula Dental School, local to her constituency, saying: ‘I am proud that we have the Peninsula dental school in Plymouth. The groundbreaking training offered by Peninsula in Plymouth closely links the trainee dentists and technicians to local communities that have historically had very low levels of contact with dentists, and it is making a difference.’
She urged the government to consider investing time and efforts into simple oral health promotion, saying: ‘Brushing, flossing, using mouthwash and chewing sugar-free gum could all be more effectively promoted to help to keep dental costs down in Britain, and the sharing of good practice should be encouraged.’
‘I know that companies such as Wrigley run their own campaigns linked to their products and support wider campaigns such as Keeping Britain Smiling, but, given the massive cost to the NHS of poor dental health and linked ill health, the government also have a role to play.’
Celebrating the role of dental hygienists, she added: ‘The wider use of expert dental hygienists to monitor and advise patients as well as to carry out treatments could have a significant benefit, although there will be some dental practices – these issues have been raised – that are not currently suitable and do not have enough space to accommodate the additional clinics.’