Dentists failing to offer patients essential checks and treatments

Undercover researchers reveal alarming lack of care in NHS and private practices

An undercover investigation has exposed poor quality assessments, inadequate examinations and treatment plans among NHS and private dentists.

Essential tests and X-rays to diagnose decay, gum disease and infections were not adequately carried out by more than half of the NHS dentists in the snapshot investigation by Which?

Three quarters of all the dentists visited – 10 private and 10 NHS – failed to check soft tissue inside the mouth which can help detect oral cancer which is the sixth most common malignancy in the UK.

Undercover researchers found assessments were kept short – 11minutes on average – which experts say makes it "near impossible" to properly assess a new patient. Eight of the NHS and five of the 10 private dentists gave inappropriate advice and some missed the need for essential treatment. Just three of the visits were rated "good".

The findings are the latest indication of problems which have "tempted dentists to cut corners" with prevention, risk assessment, quality and proper treatment planning, according to Stephen Dunne, professor of primary dental care at King's College London.

NHS dentists are paid one of three rates for every patient, a system that has led to a rapid increase in tooth extractions as an alternative to more time consuming, and therefore expensive, root canal work, according to official NHS statistics. They are currently not paid to carry out oral health checks or give patients advice on how to avoid gum disease or decay, though these are an essential part of good practice guidelines for all dentists.

The Government insists that its new NHS contract, currently being piloted, will deal with the problems because dentists' pay will for the first time depend on high quality care and patient satisfaction. But some experts warn the plans will be undermined unless more resources are found.

Professor Dunne said: "I am reassured by the principles... that underlie the new contract which are already applied by UK dental schools and good practitioners. But, I am not confident that the finances for the new contract will be adequate given the current economic climate."

But Wagner Marcenes, professor of oral epidemiology at Queen Mary, University of London, said: "The new contract will contribute favourably as dentists will be rewarded for prevention, patient satisfaction, quality of treatments and improvements if oral health."

A Department of Health spokesman said: "Poor care of any kind is unacceptable. While this survey only covers a very small number of practices, the findings will be considered by the General Dental Council, who set and monitor professional standards for both NHS and private dentists."

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

    £28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

    £16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

    Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

    £16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

    Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

    £17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

    Day In a Page

    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk