Page last updated at 23:13 GMT, Wednesday, 6 July 2005 00:13 UK

Getting away from 'drill and fill'

Ministers want to allow dentists to spend more time with their patients to allow them to address good dental health.

Critics say in the past there has been a tendency to over treat - the "drill and fill" culture - as dentists are only paid for each procedure they carry out.

A dentist who has been piloting the new approach speaks about the advantages of the proposed system.

Ben Atkins
Mr Atkins is in favour of the new system

Ben Atkins does not refer to it as "drill and fill".

Instead, he said the existing system is known within the profession as "the treadmill".

Mr Atkins, who is part of a six-dentist surgery in Manchester, said it was disheartening for dentists as there was no time to address the underlying causes of bad dental health.

"It is a crazy situation. Dentists want to spend more time with patients, but financially it is not in our interests."

But the situation changed at the Rocky Lane Dental Practice, which sees 95% of its patients under the NHS, 15 months ago when the surgery became one of more than 2,000 practices to start piloting a new way of working.

Under the scheme, dentists are paid a flat rate for serving an area, regardless of how many fillings they carry out.

Teeth health

It has meant the dentists at the inner-city practice have been able to talk to their patients about the health of their teeth just as a GP would their patients.

Mr Atkins said the system had meant they had been able to spend about 30% more time with their patients, although over-the-counter takings had dropped by a similar amount.

"I think it really is working. We have been able to talk to our patients, advise them how to brush their teeth, and help them stop getting fillings.

"We have one of the highest teeth decay rates in the country, some people come in needing 20 fillings. That is changing now."

SEE ALSO
Q&A: Dentist reforms
06 Jul 05 |  Health
Dentist contract plans put back
10 Jan 05 |  Health

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