Lobby Group Raises Concerns Over NHS Dentistry

The body that represents NHS patients in England has expressed concerns about the state of dentistry in the NHS.

Healthwatch England has published a survey revealing that 49 per cent of respondents felt NHS charges for dentistry were unfair, while the growing number of practitioners going private has led to many having to go private or suffer ongoing problems.

Among common concerns were that 41 per cent found it hard to book treatment to begin with, with 20 per cent unable to get what they needed. 24 per cent went private to get the treatment they required.

National director of Healthwatch England Louise Ansari said: “There is now a deepening crisis in dental care, leaving people struggling to get treatment or regular check-ups on the NHS.” 

For some, going private may be the best way forward, while another option is to buy items you can use at home yourself, such as kits to produce teeth impressions.

Among the concerns NHS dental service users have been worried about is the lack of transparency that exists in charging, with 17 per cent saying their dentist did not explain the cost of treatment before carrying it out, while 12 per cent experienced higher charges than those advertised by the NHS.

While there are concerns about the availability of NHS services for those on low incomes, those who can afford to pay may need to look to private dentists anyway, as around 2,000 practitioners a year are switching away from the NHS.

Some of the recent problems have been made worse by the cost of living crisis, as well as Covid, with many not getting appointments during the worst of the pandemic due to health fears and dentists themselves being limited in how many appointments they could deliver due to the restrictions.

 The General Dental Council unveiled guidelines in February aimed at organising a transition back to normal levels of dental care, which may be easier to do as summer approaches and Covid infection rates plunge.

Charity Launches ‘Safe Smiles’ Campaign

The Oral Health Foundation (OHF) has launched a ‘Safe Smiles’ campaign to address the alarming rise in dangerous DIY dentistry. Greater use of social media means that the last few years have seen an increased desire to have healthy white teeth, while at the same time millions of people missed dental appointments due to the pandemic.

This has created a situation where people are turning to the internet for quick easy solutions, and attempt to treat their teeth at home. This results in dentistry that is ineffective at best, and can be highly dangerous and detrimental to health.

The OHF stresses the importance of always consulting a professional dentist, even for cosmetic work such as tooth whitening or realignment. Buying unregulated products on the internet, or following the advice of social media influencers, is a highly unsafe thing to do.

The Metro reports that a quarter of UK households resorted to treating their own teeth during lockdown, and an estimated 35 million dental appointments were missed. This has led to people to pulling out their own teeth, which in many cases caused the neighbouring teeth to become loose and fall out soon afterwards.

Karen from Suffolk said that her self-esteem has been affected by tooth loss: ‘I was on the dating scene but I’m too embarrassed now. They’re not going to want to introduce someone to their family who has got no teeth! I was a normal, happy woman. Now, I just feel like, what’s the point of going on? I’m ashamed of myself, but I know it’s not my fault.’

The OFH recommends that to ensure the best chance of healthy teeth, you should brush twice daily with fluoride toothpaste, always use a professional dental practice for treatment, and wear custom fit mouthguard sports to protect your teeth if you play sports.

Over Half Of UK Adults Self-Conscious About Their Smile

A recent survey by the Oral Health Foundation (OHF) found that just over half (51%) of UK adults are self-conscious about their smile. This can bring a loss of confidence and self-esteem, leading to social withdrawal and isolation. Tooth problems can also be a sign of serious health issues, as well as a source of mental and physical discomfort.

Tooth decay is by far the most common oral health problem in the UK. According to Dentistry Magazine, four in five adults is at risk of the disease, amounting to some 45 million adults. Most concerningly, research has found that 19% of adults do not brush their teeth every day.

To prevent the poor quality of life that is the result of tooth decay, the most important step you can take is simply to brush your teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste. Dentists recommend using an electric toothbrush for best results. Adjusting your diet to reduce consumption of sugary foods and drinks will also help.

Using interdental brushes or floss to clean in between your teeth is important to clean areas that the toothbrush cannot reach. It is also advisable to use a mouthwash to top up your fluoride protection in between brushing.

For people who are anxious about having yellow or discoloured teeth, there are a range of treatments available. However, anyone considering using a DIY product should be very careful where they purchase it from, and check the ingredients carefully first.

This is because unregulated products may contain illegal levels of hydrogen peroxide, which may cause serious damage to the teeth and gums. Dentists agree that products containing the maximum legal level of hydrogen peroxide are too weak to be effective. The only safe and effective way to lighten your teeth is to undergo treatment at professional salon.

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What Can You Do About Snoring?

Snoring is very common, with 45% of adults estimated to snore at some point during the night. While it doesn’t necessarily have to be a problem in itself, it can disturb the sleep of a partner, and even lead to the break up of marriages. It can also be a sign of an underlying health problem.

If you are experiencing persistent unwanted snoring, the first step is to see if there are any changes you can make to your lifestyle.  Simply changing your sleeping position from lying on your back to lying on your side can help, as the tongue and palette can collapse onto the back of the throat, which causes a vibration sound as you breathe.

To avoid turning on your back as you sleep, the NHS advises attaching a tennis ball to the back of your nightwear, or investing in a bed wedge or full-length pillow. It is also advisable to avoid drinking too much alcohol or taking sleeping pills, as these can cause the throat muscles to slacken and narrow during sleep, and lead to snoring.

Using nasal sprays or strips to unblock your nose before bedtime may help, if the airways in your nose are narrow or prone to blockages. If none of these changes makes any difference, it is advisable to see a doctor, who will examine your mouth and throat.

Sometimes, snoring can be caused by a condition called sleep apnoea, which is when breathing is temporarily stopped during sleep. This may cause you to wake up choking, snorting, or gasping, and is potentially serious if left untreated.

The doctor may recommend using a custom-made anti snoring device, which is a bespoke mouth appliance, moulded to fit your bite. It prevents the lower jaw and tongue from falling back as you sleep, and holds the airways open. This prevents disruption to beathing patterns, and also reduces the vibration in the airway, meaning you should snore less.

Tips For Choosing The Perfect Toothbrush

One of most fundamental aspects of toothcare is brushing your teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste. This is crucial to remove plaque, the sticky substance that forms on teeth from a combination of sugars and saliva. If it is left to build up, plaque can lead to tooth decay and gum disease.

While any form of toothbrush is better than none, it makes sense to buy the best you can afford, to prevent painful, costly, and time-consuming oral health problems later on. Here are a few tips on choosing the right toothbrush.

Electric is better than manual

According to the Oral Health Foundation (OHF), electric toothbrushes can remove twice as much plaque as a manual one. While manual toothbrushes are cheaper, and may be handy if you travel a lot and are prone to forgetting your charger, decent electric toothbrushes can be bought for around £20-£30, and should last for several years.

Most electric brushes also have built in timing devices, which makes it much easier to brush your teeth for the recommended two minutes, twice a day.

Avoid abrasive brushes

Many people make the mistake of thinking that a firm bristled brush will be more effective at cleaning their teeth. In fact, the opposite is generally the case: hard bristles are abrasive, and can damage the enamel surface of the teeth, and the gums. Medium or soft bristles are best.

Choose the right size toothbrush head

We all have different sized mouths, and differently arranged teeth. Obviously, children will need an appropriate child size brush to allow them to comfortably reach all the areas of their mouths.

Choose a brush head that enables you to easily reach the molars, and the backs and sides of your teeth. For further advice, consult a dental professional.

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Should You Replace A Missing Tooth?

If you have one or more missing teeth, you may decide not to have them replaced if you can still chew food easily and are not in any discomfort. However, dentists recommend that missing teeth are replaced, to safeguard your future dental and oral health. While it’s a personal choice, here are some reasons to consider having a replacement.

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