Dentists should stop scaling and polishing people's teeth and spend NHS cash on other things, say researchers

Public money used for NHS dentistry is not being spent in the most effective way, say researchers.
Public money used for NHS dentistry is not being spent in the most effective way, say researchers.

Routine scaling and polishing should be stopped as the NHS dental budget could be spent better on other things, a new study has found.

Research by Newcastle University found that the money could be directed towards reducing health inequality and meeting patients' needs.

The Raindrop policy research, presented at a policy briefing in London yesterday, suggested money was spent by NHS dentistry in England based on historical demands, rather than the modern needs of patients.

Scale and polish treatment has been seen as part of regular dental care, like a check-up.

The new study revealed that funds should be much more focused on prevention of decay and gum disease and more accessible services.

The trade-off would be a reduction in the amount of orthodontics the NHS provides - by not treating those with moderate need and not providing adult orthodontics - and stopping routine scaling and polishing of teeth.

Dr Chris Vernazza, clinical senior lecturer at the School of Dental Sciences at Newcastle University, said: "Public money used for NHS dentistry is not being spent in the most effective way to ensure that patients are given the best care possible."

The chairman of the British Dental Association described the research as "interesting", but said priorities have already been set for the next decade by Westminster.

He added: "Behind the science is a political choice, that NHS dentistry will not receive a penny of additional investment.

"Patients are now paying more, as ministers scale back their contributions. We need to find a better way."

In response to the research, an NHS spokesperson said: "Over eight out of 10 people have a positive experience with their dentist, prevention is at the heart of the NHS Long Term Plan, and building on this, dentists across the country are being supported in seeing more children from the age of one to instil good oral health at a young age".