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Professor Aubrey Sheiham
"These interventions are either unnecessary or harmful"
 real 28k

Dr John Renshaw
"It is a completely fallacious argument"
 real 28k

Monday, 17 April, 2000, 08:46 GMT 09:46 UK
20% of dental work 'unnecessary'
Dental equipment
Dentists carrying out unnecessary treatment
Dentists inflict millions of pounds of unnecessary and even harmful treatment on patients each year, according to a leading member of the profession.

Professor Aubrey Sheiham says his colleagues are guilty of carrying out too many scalings and polishings, taking too many X-rays and replacing fillings too frequently.



Interventions are either unnecessary, or lots of things are even harmful because they are unnecessary interventions

Professor Aubrey Sheiham
In a report to be presented to the Dental Practice Board's conference in Eastbourne on Monday, he blames the problem on dentists seeking to boost their incomes.

But the British Dental Association (BDA) rejected the report, describing it as a "completely fallacious argument".

The current recommendation for a check-up every six months is unnecessary, says Professor Sheiham - professor of dental public health at University College, London - as are many of the 13m scalings and polishings carried out in the UK each year.

Put in badly

The report says that if a filling is replaced within five years it was put in badly in the first place and should be replaced for free. Fillings should last 15 years.

The conference will also be told that the reason women lose their teeth earlier than men is that they go to the dentist more often.

Professor Sheiham says unnecessary intervention by dentists can be dangerous particularly in patients with mild gum disease, who may experience further damage as a result of scrapings of the teeth.

Professor Sheiham told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that 20% of treatments carried out by dentists were unnecessary.

"These interventions are either unnecessary, or lots of things are even harmful because they are unnecessary interventions.

"One has to look at this in the light of the success story of the past 20 years."

Of the population in general, 90% now did not suffer teeth problems, a dramatic improvement on two decades ago, he said.

Dr John Renshaw, chairman of the BDA's executive board, said: "We have a payment system in the NHS that was created in 1948. It is not surprising if that is unsuitable for the year 2000.

"But to make out that 20% of output is unnecessary and that check-ups and scalings are being done when they are not needed is absolutely erroneous."

A spokesman for the BDA added: "Professor Sheiham's views are well known within the dental profession but disagreed with by the vast majority of them.

"It is widely recognised that the UK has the most cost-effective dental service in the western world."

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