Slow down, dentists are told

Slow down, dentists are told

A new campaign is calling for a national shift towards “Slow Dentistry”. The Swiss-based movement is claiming that rushed appointments endanger patients and increase infection risks. But BDA Chair Mick Armstrong has said, in a letter to the Sunday Telegraph, the sad fact is that “Fast Dentistry” is the reality for NHS patients across England and Wales.

Slow Dentistry claims a typical NHS dental appointment is a 20-minute slot - although many check-ups are quicker - but the dentist behind Slow Dentistry wants all treatment appointments to be an hour long. Dr Miguel Stanley, who co-founded the movement, said it was “physically impossible” to carry out anti-infection measures to the highest standards in just 20 minutes. He said: “Time becomes a huge factor of practicing excellence… The patient should come first, not just the business model.”

But patients also needed to change their mindsets, he added. “Slow Dentistry reflects a cultural shift in our speed-focused pace of life – it is a movement which aims to put the brakes on our fast-paced living and is the antithesis of the modern-day ‘I want it now’ ethos. 

“We need to be prepared to allow the time and go slower. So many of us think that we can squeeze in a dental hygiene session over lunch for 20 minutes, or quickly fix a filling in half an hour. The Slow Dentistry movement is promulgating the idea that we all have to adjust our pace and time expectations. Speed is not good.”

The movement asks dentists to spend time informing people about their treatment and how to care for their teeth. It is based on four “cornerstones” to make sure dentists give patients a better experience: ensuring people have given their informed consent; thoroughly disinfecting the room and equipment between patients; ensuring any anaesthetic is working before starting treatment; and using barriers like a rubber dam to prevent infection while performing treatments like root canal.

Writing in response to the Sunday Telegraph, BDA Chair, Mick Armstrong said: “The (NHS) system, and our contracts, put chasing government targets ahead of patient care. Every year, it’s not about the oral health improvements we secure, but about the boxes ticked. Hit targets early, and we can’t see any more NHS patients. Fail to make the grade, and we face financial penalties. It’s a system that means a dentist gets paid the same for one filling as for five, and one that can leave practitioners out of pocket when treating patients with high needs. As health professionals, we need the next government to give us time to care.”

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