Modern dentists need to open minds as well as mouths

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From: Kirkwood Young, Youngs Dental Practice, Mark Place, Snaith.

owing to professional interest, I watched the recent ITV episode of The Dentist based in the University of Manchester Dental Hospital, a place where many hundreds of Yorkshire NHS and private dentists cut their teeth – so to speak.

A huge part of the programme focused on the “ignorant” public who didn’t know, care or understand the importance of preventing problems with their teeth, using the usual “horror” cases that make everyone throw up their hands in dismay.

Whilst entertaining, the programme failed to highlight the role that dentists should be playing in pushing for preventative options rather treatments. We should be investing in ways of detecting decay at an early stage. We have lost sight of the fact that dental decay and gum disease are preventable diseases that can be treated without having to resort to invasive procedures such as drilling, filling or removing teeth.

Dentistry should take a leaf out of the medical profession’s book and adapt a medical approach to decay. Why is it there? How can I treat it as early as possible with the least cost to the patient?

As a dentist with more than 30 years of experience based in Yorkshire, I despair when I see how my industry is simply failing to move with the times, overlooking technological advancements that could help prevent or minimally treat problems without resorting to drill and fill. Only recently two private dentists scoffed at the news of a product that could “remineralise” teeth – their response of “I won’t use it because it will be doing me out of a job...” was depressing to say the least.

I have been using alternative methods and new technological advances for years. I hold seminars across Europe on Minimal Intervention Dentistry (MID) and when I do courses in the UK I come home drained as the delegates don’t want to embrace change. Yes, we know that over half the population don’t see a dentist regularly so there is a massive education process needed, but we as a profession should look at ourselves as being part of the problem and not the cure.

I believe the majority of dentists are not providing ethical, honest, professional work when they default to performing excessive, vastly invasive work that should be obsolete in the 21st century and not an industry standard.

This is a debate that should be happening and it is a shame that it takes car crash TV to ignite interest in the issue.