NHS To Encourage Longer Dental Recall Periods

NHS To Encourage Longer Dental Recall Periods

An indication of changes to come is laid bare by NHS England’s latest ’NHS Dentistry and Oral Health Update’ (January 30th) headlined ’New resources published to support dental check-up recall intervals’.

The aim is clear: "Moving practice away from routine six monthly check-ups, to follow the NICE guidelines, will improve access to dental care for patients and enable dental teams to see more patients with the greatest oral health need".

The newsletter contains links to a range of leaflets and posters designed to help dentists explain longer recall periods to their patients.  The resources explain that recall intervals of one year for dentally fit children and two years for adults are wholly permissible.

The advice is not new - NICE guidelines issued in 2014 already provide for intervals up to two years.  Many patients and their dentists, however, remain wedded to a ’six-monthly’ check-up regime, a cosy relationship that could be in for some serious re-evaluation.

Under the heading ’How often should I have a check-up?’ the leaflet states "For adults with healthy teeth and gums, who are at low risk of dental disease, this may be up to every two years.

Children with healthy teeth and gums who are at low risk of dental disease will be offered a check-up once a year".

Some dentists are reluctant to disturb a good relationship by extending recall intervals, whilst many patients, used to the indulgence of a six-monthly check-up, will perceive any extension as ’cuts to the service’ or a diminution of service that puts their oral health at risk.  

The resources are clearly branded ’NHS’ and as such will enable dentists to extend recall periods with the endorsement of the NHS.

Patients are reassured "You will be seen sooner if you have a dental problem or if you have a high risk of having dental disease".  

Interestingly the leaflet goes on to inform patients that their check-up will be done by a dentist, dental therapist or hygienist.  2022/23 NHSE contract negotiations outlined steps to promote ’more effective use of skill mix in primary dental care’.

The government’s Dental Recovery Plan has yet to be published but the direction of travel is clear.  MP’s are fed up with hearing from patients unable to access dentists and by extending recall periods for the healthy, spaces will be released for patients who may be in greater need. 

To support its messaging, the NHS circular contains two case studies that illustrate how existing practices have successfully negotiated the changes.

your nhs check up


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