Experts are calling for ‘brave and bold’ decision making to radically reform the way the UK delivers dentistry.
In an article, published in The Lancet, Richard Watt highlights how well the UK has integrated dental services into the wider health system during the COVID-19 pandemic.
He believes political and professional leaders should use this opportunity to ‘delineate’ clinical roles. Therefore providing a more integrated model of care.
‘The scale and pace of integration of dental personnel into the wider health system has been remarkable,’ Professor Watt says. ‘Dentists, dental hygienists or therapists, and dental nurses, have all had a substantial effect in supporting health service delivery during this crisis and have developed new skills and clinical knowledge in the process.’
He continues: ‘Radical reform of oral health-care systems will require brave and bold decision making from our political and professional leaders. The time however, is ripe for change.’
The article calls for an end to routine scale and polish, claiming the procedure is a costly waste of resources.
Instead, Professor Watt wants the dental team to work in partnership to tackle oral diseases and other non-communicable diseases.
He highlights how COVID-19 is exacerbating the oral health divide between socioeconomic and different ethnic groups.
‘Dental services are now slowly and tentatively beginning to re-open,’ the article continues. ‘Although there is considerable variation in the guidance issued on the safety procedures required.
‘Rather than resuming normal service, this crisis presents an opportunity to rethink the future of dentistry and address system-level failures.’
Periodontitis and COVID-19 links
A new study published earlier this week links severe COVID-19 complications with gum disease.
Bacteria in the gums travels through the body and spreads IL-6 protein, a harmful inflammatory. And high levels of IL-6 is a predictor for respiratory failure – carrying a 22 times higher risk for respiratory complications.
As a result, the researchers are calling on better periodontal screening and treatment to help combat the spread of the virus.
‘Considering the potential impact of poor oral hygiene and periodontitis on respiratory infections and COVID-19, periodontal interventions are important to reduce the burden of oral bacteria and potentially decrease systemic inflammation,’ it reads.