The BDJ has published a survey of 146 junior doctors who were asked about their knowledge of handling oral health conditions. 65% of them said they do not routinely assess the mouth as part of an oral health assessment, and 61% of them were not capable of identifying signs of oral cancer in patients. Importantly 97% of the doctors surveyed expressed an interest in receiving further training in oral health.
Additional research undertaken last year by the Queen Mary University of London identified that thousands of children with oral pain are going to A&E, pharmacies and other non-dental services which is presenting the NHS with an annual bill of £2.3m. That survey uncovered that 65% of parental visits to the pharmacy were for pain medications for their children to relieve oral pain.
“Secondary care oral health inadequate“
BDA chair of hospital dentists, Peter Dyer, said: “Dental care for inpatients, particularly the elderly, must be recognised better in our hospitals. Failure to engage on oral health can jeopardise the recovery of older patients. Pre-existing problems go untreated, and conditions, including cancers, may not be spotted. The result heaps more pressure on our NHS. Yes, doctors need appropriate training, but health bosses must also ensure appropriate dental services are actually available for inpatients. Oral and dental diagnosis with referral to the appropriate department for treatment can be key if we want to reduce unnecessary care and prolonged stays in hospital.”
Dr Vanessa Muirhead from QMUL, research lead, said: “The fact that only 30% of children with oral pain had seen a dentist before going to a pharmacy highlights a concerning underuse of dental services. Children with oral pain need to see a dentist for a definitive diagnosis and to treat any tooth decay. Not treating a decayed tooth can result in more pain, abscesses and possible damage to children’s permanent teeth. These children had not only failed to see a dentist before their pharmacy visit, they had seen GPs and a range of other health professionals outside dentistry. This inappropriate and overuse of multiple health services including A&E is costing the NHS a substantial amount of money at a time when reducing waste is a government priority.”