When I qualified from Newcastle Dental School in 1989 I worked for 9 months in a very busy NHS practice in a very depressed area of the North East. It was my first job after qualification and “wet behind the ears” doesn’t come close to describing my clinical experience. One thing that was never a concern for me, however, was having to treat children, as decay was a rarity in all that I saw. The area in which I worked had been receiving fluoridated water for decades and it had more than halved the decay rates in children.
I left the North East and went to work in the Caribbean for 4 years (not a difficult choice to make, really) and worked in what was effectively a third world community without access to government funded dental health. Although I did see occasional cases of rampant decay in some children who had access to high sugar snacks, for the most part the children’s teeth were in excellent condition.
It was only when I returned to the UK and moved to the South East of England that I really came across daily levels of advanced decay in children, especially the under 10s. I have worked in several affluent areas of Kent and East Sussex, including Bromley, Tunbridge Wells and Wadhurst and have found increasing levels of decay in all of these areas in the past 10 years. According to the article in the News section of The Sunday Times, April 15th I am not alone in these observations. According to recent figures from a study by the British Association for the Study of Community Dentistry, which looked at 240,000 five to six year olds more than a third of them have decayed or missing teeth. This incredibly high figure has been linked to a greater prevalence of high sugar snacks and drinks and a greater exposure to these products in the form of advertising from a far younger age. It is also no coincidence that the number of children registered with a dentist has dropped over the past few years and is set to carry on doing so. As part of the same study 600 dentists were interviewed and 85% believed that the new dental contract had not improved access to NHS care and 93% believed that the new contract did not encourage better prevention of tooth decay.
Like I say, a depressing statistic: decay in children is on the increase whilst the access to and quality of the care available has not improved.
When I set StoneRock Dental Care up I asked for a NHS contract to provide care for children this way. My request was rejected on the grounds that there was not enough money for the existing dental practices in the area so the PCT (the group that funds public health in each area) were not prepared to develop any new services. This forced us to move outside of the NHS completely and we now provide children’s dentistry on a private only basis. What this has allowed us to do is invest in far greater technology to improve the quality of our care and provide much more time for each appointment so that the treatment is not rushed or compromised.
Providing private dental care for children was a big step for us but it has allowed us to provide the level of care that I would expect for my two kids and that really makes me feel good about what I do. If you would like to know more about the services that we provide for children and the maintenance schemes that we run for them the please contact the surgery and we will be happy to help you.