Oral Health Foundation: Scottish dental health

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Oral Health Foundation welcomes new Scottish dental health policy's focus on prevention

Leading oral health charity, the Oral Health Foundation, has welcomed the introduction of a new dental health policy for Scotland which has a much greater focus on prevention.

The charity believes that recommendations made in the policy, such as implementing discussions with patients about lifestyle choices and their affect on oral health, and a greater focus on meeting the oral health needs of an ageing population, can make a real difference to the future of oral health in Scotland.

Since the introduction of lifetime NHS dental registration in Scotland in 2010 the number of Scottish people registered with a dentist now stands at 95%, but the number of people visiting a dentist has decreased in recent years, something this new policy looks to address.

Dubbed the ‘Oral Health Improvement Plan’ and launched by the Chief Dental Officer for Scotland, Margie Taylor, it comprises a series of recommendations to help reduce health inequalities and prevent poor dental health throughout Scotland.

It outlines ideas for the future of oral health improvement and NHS dental services in Scotland and follows on from the publication of the consultation ‘Scotland’s Oral Health Plan’ in September 2016.

Key recommendations include:
• Comprehensive clinical examinations and discussions about lifestyle choices, diet, alcohol and smoking and the impact on the patient’s oral health.
• A personalised care plans in relation to oral cancer, gum disease and decay according to a patient’s degree of risk.
• Further support for the Childsmile programme.
• The introduction of a Community Challenge Fund to allow organisations to bid for funding to work in deprived communities and support people to change their oral health behaviours.
• Dentists to treat elderly people in their own homes.
• Care home visits from dental practitioners as part of a Domiciliary Care Provision.
• The development of a standard set of NHS oral health information on self-care, treatments available, costs and services to be made available to the public by dental practices and dentists.

Dr Nigel Carter, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation, said: “These are very encouraging signs from the Scottish government that they have recognised an important issue and have set out a coherent and workable plan to improve oral health across the country.

“I am particularly pleased with their focus on prevention. Almost all oral health problems can be prevented with a good oral health routine introduced from a very early age.

“There are huge benefits to focussing on prevention, not only in reducing the potential pain and suffering of people due to preventable oral health issues, but also in reducing the cost of having to deal with them. The greater focus on elderly people’s oral health is also a positive move which we are pleased they have recognised and addressed. The moves will hopefully help overcome many of the barriers which elderly people face in accessing oral health care in on a daily basis.”

Dr Carter continued: “Scotland is leading the way in the UK when it comes to oral health prevention in children through initiatives such as ChildSmile, which has just celebrated its 10th anniversary, and I am interested to see where this will lead over the next few years.

“We are disappointed though that the Scottish government has decided not to adopt water fluoridation based upon ‘practicalities of implementing’ and hope there is movement on this in the future.”