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Dentists tackling Victorian disease in 21st century Britain

A former high street dentist, Tom Thayer now works as a hospital consultant, and says the real truth needs to be known about the state of NHS dentistry as patients are suffering needlessly

Tom Thayer Blog Bio 250X250
Tom Thayer Consultant & Hon lecturer in Oral Surgery, Royal Liverpool University Dental Hospital

What I’ve seen at the chairside makes me weep. I encourage all dentists to sign my petition - we have to keep up the pressure on the Government. 

I work with a deprived community in the North West, and people are really suffering. I care passionately about dentistry and my patients - so I want the real truth to be known.

DIY dentistry

People who can’t get appointments are taking matters into their own hands. I’ve seen it in my own family, and its utterly horrifying.

I have had to “tidy up” after DIY extractions on a number of occasions.

The first time I experienced this was when access to dentistry was a problem in the early 2000’s but now the issues have reappeared. A direct result of the same problem – a lack of access. Why is no-one listening to the patients or our profession?

Why is no-one listening to the patients or our profession?

I’m not alone. Over 80% of dentists surveyed by the BDA have seen cases of DIY dentistry. This is the result of choices made in Westminster. We shouldn’t be seeing any of this in a modern society.

A cry for help

I was a practice owner for many years. Dental practices are small businesses that contract to the NHS. If the business fails – then there is no service to anyone.

The present contract is perverse, and it is getting harder to make it work. As our colleague Oliver Pierce explained in a piece for the Mirror, at the end of a day, exhausted from working on the frontline and looking at his UDAs completed and how far behind they are, he says: “We need a miracle, or contract reform tomorrow, to avoid staring down the barrel of £100,000 in funding clawback.” This cannot go on.

In my current role as a hospital consultant, I received a referral from a local dentist.

The note from the dentist read ‘I don’t know what to do with this patient. I’ve got a 6-month waiting list. They are in pain, and I can’t offer the treatment they need. There used to be seven dentists in the practice, now there are only two.’ 

This was a cry for help and shows the severity of the access issue we now face.

Three-year olds with dental sepsis

The Government has abandoned vulnerable people to chance.

They shouldn’t be developing these problems, and when they do, they can’t access dental care reliably - putting them at risk.

I am also involved in the training of young dentists, and as part of my role I reviewed case studies submitted as part of the in-career training of young colleagues across the North West of England.

The Government has abandoned vulnerable people to chance.

Last year I was surprised by the number of cases of severe infection and sepsis, leading to hospital admissions, that had been reported by my colleagues.  This even included some paediatric patients, the youngest was three years of age. There is evidence of a steady increase in the number of admissions for severe orofacial infections since 2010 with deprivation being a predisposing factor.

The dental disease burden on the population is increasing, this disease is presenting in more extreme forms, and it is only a matter of time until patients lose their lives from dental infection on a consistent basis.

It is time to start reminding people that unchecked dental infection can be fatal.

It is the lack of access that is now directly leading to these situations, and the bizarre thing is, that it would be so easy for government to take action.

The return of scurvy

A growing gap in health is accelerating yet is totally preventable. Unfortunately, where I work deprivation is significant and shocking. We even see cases of scurvy which can lead to bleeding gums and loose teeth – with scurvy the body stops producing collagen and this affects the skin and the gums.

This is so very easily treated – vitamin C and a half-decent diet. None of this should be happening in the 21st Century in Britain.

So please, add your name to this petition. Don’t let the Government’s disinformation campaign succeed.

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