Smile and the world smiles with you - if you have good teeth. At the moment, many people visit the dentist every six months. However, this may not be the best use of patients’ time and money or NHS resources.
What if research could help patients take more control over their dental care, with the potential to safely extend the time between appointments? Dr Anwen Cope, a Specialty Trainee and Honorary Lecturer in Dental Public Health has recently received a Health and Care Research Wales Clinical Research Time Award to investigate whether individually tailored dental care packages could leave both patients and the NHS better off.
Helping you be healthier
The study will focus on the development and testing of a ‘decision aid’ which will support patients and dentists to reach a decision together about what is the best length of time between dental check-ups for that particular patient.
Not only will this help patients receive the dental care best suited to their needs, there is also evidence that patients who actively participate in making decisions about their medical treatment are typically healthier.
Dr Cope says: “It is argued that increasing the time between dental check-ups for low-risk patients could free up resources which could be used to increase access to dental care. However, it is important that existing patients are supported by their dental team to make informed decisions about what time between check-ups is right for them. This process can be supported by decision aids which help patients arrive at a decision which aligns with their values.”
This project will form part of a larger NHS General Dental Services Reform Programme in Wales, which seeks to identify new ways of working in primary care dental services.
One of the key priorities of this programme is the personalisation of NHS dental care based on patients’ current oral health needs and their risk of developing disease in the future. This means time between dental check-ups could be personalised for every patient, based on how likely they are to develop diseases such as tooth decay, gum disease, or oral cancer.
Professor Ivor Chestnutt, Health and Care Research Wales’ Specialty Lead for dentistry and co-investigator for the study says: “This project demonstrates how funding provided by Health and Care Research Wales can be used to answer questions of immediate clinical relevance, which will shape how dental care can be improved to the benefit of all”.
Happier staff, happier patients
The study is set to begin today, fittingly on World Smile Day®, and its findings could change dentistry practice as we know it. Whether you’re a practitioner or a patient, we hope you can wear your smile with pride today knowing that research in Wales is helping dental primary care to run more efficiently, to keep you smiling for longer.