“An essential service that must be protected at any cost” – Oral Health Foundation backs latest report exposing NHS dentistry crisis

The Oral Health Foundation has welcomed a new damning report exposing the unacceptable decline of NHS dentistry.

In a recently published report, the Health and Social Care Committee found that NHS dentistry is in crisis and in need of fundamental reform.

Over the last week, the Oral Health Foundation has been applauding the outcomes of the report, blasting officials on the current state of NHS dentistry, and calling for urgent and decisive action to end the current mess that surrounds NHS dentistry.

Dr Nigel Carter, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation, says: “NHS dentistry has been in freefall for years. Unsupported by government with no clear plan or direction towards an efficient and sustainable model to make NHS dentistry fit for purpose in today’s landscape.

“The Health Select Committee inquiry, which took place earlier this year, gave a voice to thousands of people within the profession and industry to express their disappointments, fears and anger over the state of NHS dentistry. The Oral Health Foundation’s response was deeply critical, and we are delighted that many of our concerns were matched in the published report last week.”

The charity is supporting the need for early action concerning the current dental crisis in the UK, as well as the right of everyone who wants to access NHS dentistry, to be able to do so in a timely manner without the need to travel many miles.

The Oral Health Foundation also welcomes proposals for urgent and fundamental contract reform. The charity wants to see the implementation of a capitation-based system which is designed to help reduce dental inequalities, together with a more emphasis on the prevention of dental disease. 

“It is most frustrating that many of the issues around the NHS dental contract that have been laid bare in last week’s report were also identified in a Health Select Committee from 2008,” adds Dr Carter. “Despite many years of piloting and prototyping, the necessary changes to reform NHS dentistry have still not been implemented.  These are essential to many of the other proposals, including workforce expansion and retention.”

The Oral Health Foundation is joining calls for the urgent, early publication of the promised Recovery Plan for Dental Services by the government.

The charity is also backing the need for more clarity concerning patient’s rights in relation to NHS dentistry. This includes a greater clarity on the move towards less frequent dental recalls for patients with good oral hygiene and lower risk of dental disease.

Dr Carter says: “Our views on patient registration, have not changed since the last report in 2008.  Dental registration allows patients to be registered with their individual dentist, this helps to build loyalty between patient and dentist, a good rapport and a trusting relationship.  This will improve oral health and successful prevention measures.”

According to the Health Select Committee report: ‘The argument then was that “dental care is most effective when delivered over time and as part of a trusting dentist-patient relationship”… Professor Paul Batchelor, Honorary Clinical Professor at the University of Lancaster, who was a specialist adviser to our predecessor Committee, notes in his evidence that to achieve greater access and reduce inequalities, reform of the contract “should centre on capitation-based payments with long-term registration arrangements.”’

Amongst many other points raised by the recent report, the Oral Health Foundation is endorsing the urgent need for a dental workforce survey, the mandatory inclusion of dental representation on ICBs (Integrated Care Boards), and the speeding up of processes for potential overseas registrants. 

“Faith in NHS dentistry has been lost amongst the general public and the dental profession,” adds Dr Carter.

“We hope this report is the catalyst for campaigners such as ourselves, to add the necessary pressure on government to make the changes that are so badly needed. We will not allow the government to give up on NHS dentistry – it is an essential service that must be protected at any cost.”

An exciting new educational opportunity for dental nurses – Introducing the Janet Goodwin Educational Grant

The Oral Health Foundation in collaboration with the British Association of Dental Nurses, are very excited to introduce the Janet Goodwin Educational Grant.  This is a financial award, to assist your dental nurses to achieve their full potential and become a further asset to your practice, from their dental nursing diploma through to upskilling via post-qualification education to extend their day-to-day duties.

So, if you have any trainee dental nurses and they are funding their own dental nursing diploma examinations themselves, they can apply for the bursary to help them cover course and examination fees.  They can apply for funding of up to £500.

Or maybe all of your nurses are already qualified and registered with the General Dental Council, never underestimate the value of ‘upskilling’.  Many dental nurses and would love to further their dental careers and with these extra qualifications, they will become a much more valuable member of your dental team.   Post-qualification courses and education will aways increase job satisfaction, aid your practices’ staff retention level, and add value to the overall patient experience.

Working with a dental nurse that is qualified to carry out extra duties, will also help you to work in a more effective way, you can delegate more of your simpler treatments and save your valuable treatment time.

Why not encourage your nurses to have a look at extended duties courses, such as:

  • Oral health education
  • Dental radiography
  • Dental implant nursing
  • Orthodontic dental nursing
  • Dental sedation nursing
  • Fluoride varnish application
  • Special care dental nursing
  • Impression taking

Maybe one of the reasons that your dental nurses have not explored further education could be the associated costs. If they were to be awarded one of these grants, this would help to lessen the financial burden. 

This grant is in honour of the late Janet Goodwin, former President of the Oral Health Foundation, and a pioneering dental nurse, who tragically passed away from breast cancer in 2020. Janet began working in dentistry as a dental nurse in 1971, and worked in general practice, community, dental hospitals and further education.

An influential figure within oral health, Janet held roles at Leeds Dental Hospital, The National Examining Board for Dental Nurses and the General Dental Council. 

As well as her work with the Oral Health Foundation, Janet was a member of several oral health bodies. She carried out management and educational projects on an independent basis with various organisations including the Faculty of General Dental Practice, where she was Chair of the DCP committee, City & Guilds as Chief Examiner, and Dental Team Qualification in the development and delivery of DCP programmes.

In 2015, Janet became the very first dental nurse to be elected President of the Oral Health Foundation in the charity’s 52-year history, becoming a real voice for dental nurses all over the country.  From the minute she became President she was already breaking barriers. Janet brought a unique and vibrant personality which was what also allowed her to bring talented fresh faces to the Board of Trustees. 

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation, believes that Janet was true ambassador for oral health, and she leaves behind a lasting legacy for the dental health of the nation and was a stalwart supporter of all dental nurses.

Encouraging dental nurses to seek education and relevant dental qualifications to enhance their dental careers, was always very high on Janet’s agenda, so these educational bursaries in her name, seemed to be the most appropriate use of these funds.

We want this grant to be a lasting legacy for the dental nurses that are successful, allowing them further their dental journey.  You could be instrumental in encouraging one of them to apply!

As a bonus, successful applicants will each receive a signed copy of Tits Up – a wonderful and insightful book by a great friend of Janet’s, and ex-employee of the NEBDN, Carol Patterson. The book documents Carol’s own breast cancer journey – the disease that ultimately took Janet Goodwin’s life.

Everybody at the Oral Health Foundation and British Association of Dental Nurses are very proud to continue Janet’s legacy by offering educational grants to dental nurses to help them achieve their dreams and furthering their careers.

Visit www.dentalhealth.org/janetgoodwingrant to find out more about the grant, the criteria, and to complete the application form.

Applications close on 17 August 2023.

Last chance to see The Dental Hygienist Roadshow

It’s National Smile Month! So what better time to sign up to The Dental Hygienist Roadshow by Johnson & Johnson Ltd.? There are only a few dates left in the calendar so here we find out what to expect from the remaining events.

Professor Iain Chapple, Benjamin Tighe and Laura Bailey have been touring the UK, bringing The Dental Hygienist Roadshow to dental events throughout the year.

Between them, they have covered the current impact periodontitis is having on the UK population, why managing gingivitis using plaque control measures is key to successful preventive care, and the role the dental hygienist and dental therapist can play in instigating behaviour change.

‘The reception we’ve had from the roadshow so far is that we’ve reinvigorated the passion for patient health, systemic health for behaviour change,’ Laura Bailey said.

‘We’re starting to get excited about oral hygiene again and how we motivate our patients, which is just really important.’

If you’ve missed the events so far, don’t worry, there are a couple more dates left in the diary, including:

  • 1 July – Bristol South West Dentistry Show
  • 7 October – London Dentistry Show

WTF: what is the future?

During the roadshow, the three lecturers take delegates through the very latest in periodontal research.

Professor Iain Chapple looks at the role of personalising dental medicine and the size of the challenge the dental profession faces.

Benjamin Tighe then discusses the role of chemotherapeutics in biofilm prevention, reviewing the latest mouthrinse evidence. He also explains how important it is for dental hygienists and dental therapists to critique research and how to implement these findings into everyday practice.

Finally, Laura Bailey explains how to inspire change in each patient’s behaviour. She unpicks the human brain and introduces the four personality types and how to adapt your approach to each one.

‘When I think about myself at the Hygienist Advisory Panel, I was adamant my mind wasn’t going to be changed on mouthwash,’ Benjamin Tighe said.

‘Professor Chapple was fundamental in shifting in my own thinking. He presented the evidence in a way I could understand.

‘It was open, free, I could ask questions. It helped me understand it a lot better. If you understand it, you’re more likely to recommend it.

‘That’s what this roadshow is all about, it’s an open forum. It’s there not just to get ideas from the lecturers but also from the delegates.

‘We want to know what you think. If there’s anything we can do to facilitate change in practice, then that’s what we’re here for.’

Register for the Q&A Forum

But the event doesn’t stop with the lectures. There is also the chance to discuss current challenges in practice in a more private setting with the speakers.

Johnson & Johnson Ltd., the maker of LISTERINE®, is hosting a Q&A Forum with up to 10 delegates at each event.

‘Quite often, people are a little shy coming up, particularly in an open environment, and asking questions. They wait until the end of the presentations,’ Professor Iain Chapple explains.

‘We’ve had some great conversations and great questions, not just from dental hygienists and dental therapists but dentists and dental nurses as well.

‘What this lunch has offered is a really relaxed and informal environment for people just to exchange views, talk about challenges. Question and challenge what we’ve been saying, which is really important.

‘That’s really enriched the main presentation.

‘For me, what’s really important from these roundtable discussions is I learn as much as the delegates do. They’re giving information on how they do things in practice.

‘It’s certainly a two-way learning process.’

To register your interest in attending the breakout Q&A Forum with the speakers, simply visit www.listerineprofessional.co.uk/roadshow2023.

Oral Health Foundation calls for action after a huge rise in childhood tooth extractions under general anaesthetic

The Oral Health Foundation calls for urgent action after a new report by the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities highlights a catastrophic rise in childhood tooth extractions

Shocking figures reveal an 83% increase in the number of 0-19 year-olds being admitted to hospital for tooth extractions under general anaesthetic, due to tooth decay.

In total, there were 26,741 tooth extractions on 0-19 year-olds, due to tooth decay between 2021-2022.

According to the report, there are large disparities between areas of the country, for example Yorkshire and the Humber rates are over five times that of the East Midlands.

The cost of hospital extractions under general anaesthetic in children 0-19, due to decayed teeth was almost £60 million.  The Oral Health Foundation say this is NHS money that could be used in other areas, to improve dental access and reduce treatment waiting times.

The charity believes more education and funding is needed, as well as improved awareness about tooth decay dental decay can be prevented.   

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation said: “It is unfair and unjust for even one child to experience dental disease and pain, let alone thousands. Only 10% of the country has fluoride added to their water, so expanding water fluoridation schemes could help to reduce these disparities in all areas of the UK.  Water fluoridation is one of the single most credible and impactful schemes that can have a significant impact on tooth decay. The data on children’s general anaesthetic, hospital extractions in non-fluoridated areas versus fluoridated areas is staggering – in fluoridated areas, hospital admissions fall by as much as 68%.”

The caries-related tooth extraction rate for children and young people living in the most deprived areas is nearly 3.5 times that of those living in the most affluent areas.

“These figures continue to suggest that the UK is turning into a postcode lottery when it comes to dental access,” adds Dr Carter.  “These differences have been increasingly apparent as NHS dentistry is put under more stress. Less NHS dentists, rising populations and dental teams combined with an NHS dental contract that does not work, have certainly not helped the situation around the UK.”

The Oral Health Foundation says the number of children and young adults having teeth removed in hospitals is unacceptable.  The charity is concerned that too many people believe that having ‘baby’ teeth removed early does not have a long-term impact on the ‘adult’ or permanent teeth.

Dr Carter says: “If the baby teeth have to be removed early due to decay, this can cause problems with the adult teeth, in the future. The baby teeth hold the space open for the permanent teeth to move into when they are ready.  Without the baby teeth to keep these spaces, the adult teeth often come through in the wrong position.  If this happens, the child will need to have orthodontic (braces) treatment, in the future.”

As always, the Oral Health Foundation recommends that you brush your teeth for two minutes, last thing at night and at least one other time during the day, using a fluoride toothpaste.  As children get older, they should start to clean in-between their teeth using interdental brushes, tape or floss, once a day.

“Unless the proper steps are put in place to reduce the number of decay-related tooth extractions under general anaesthetic in hospitals, these numbers will continue to escalate and place further strain on an already over-stretched NHS,” adds Dr Carter.  

“The only way to reduce this burden is to educate all ages, on the causes of dental decay and how to prevent it, with a balanced, healthy diet that is low in sugar and maintain an effective dental hygiene routine at home, and keep an eye on their oral health by visiting their dentist regular, as often as they recommend.”

Simon A F Howell: 10 October 1952 – 8 February 2023

Words by Karen Coates, Oral Health Content Specialist at the Oral Health Foundation, 14/02/23

We are sad to announce the sudden passing of our dear friend and colleague, Simon Howell.

Simon was Director of Campaigns for the Oral Health Foundation (previously the British Dental Health Foundation) from 2004 to 2014.  He previously worked at Smile-On learning, so came to the Oral Health Foundation with a wealth of industry knowledge.

During his time at the Oral Health Foundation, Simon was at the forefront of delivering our public oral health awareness message, with major campaigns such as National Smile Month and Mouth Cancer Action Month.   He was also instrumental in spreading the ethos and mantra of the Oral Health Foundation, both in the UK and overseas. 

Through the years, Simon built up many great relationships within the dental profession and industry, and these resulted in friendships that were to last for many years.  Simon was always especially popular at dental shows, due to his infectious enthusiasm and energy. 

In the office, Simon was a huge character, with many a tale and a ‘dad joke’ or three.   We fondly remember the tales such as how the double stitched seam on his KooGa shorts saved him from a major injury when the ladder broke whilst he was cleaning his boat.  His sense of humour was legendary and more often than not, groan-worthy too.  Since we heard the shocking news of his passing, we have spent several hours remembering all of his nicknames for people and his wonderful stories and jokes, with love and smiles.

Simon was genuinely interested in people and took the time to build friendships with everyone he met.  When he retired in 2014 after 10 years, his presence was greatly missed by us all at the Oral Health Foundation.

After he retired in 2014, Simon and his beloved wife, Julie moved to Oradour-Sur-Vavres, Limousin in France, where he spent his remaining years.

We send our thoughts and condolences to his much-loved family, wife Julie, son James, daughter-in-law Rita and precious granddaughter Beatrice.

Simon was larger-than-life, thoughtful, kind, selfless and great fun!  Our lives are richer for having him in them and the world is a sadder place without him. 

Simon, you were a true bon vivant, a great friend, and an absolute gentleman.  You will be remembered with a smile and with much love.

Healthy dad diagnosed with mouth cancer urges everyone to get check for signs and says, “it can happen to anybody”

“It’ll go away. It can’t be that serious”.   

That’s what father of four Robert Powell told himself when he came down with a persistent sore throat. 

It happened shortly after the London-born business consultant, along with his wife Susie, moved to France to open up a bed and breakfast. 

Robert suffered with tonsilitis as a young child, so a sore throat was nothing out of the ordinary.

“In those days, they used to whip your tonsils out at the drop of a hat but despite having several bouts of tonsillitis, they left them in,” Robert says.  “I just thought, I’ve got a sore throat and it’ll go away.  I did the blokey thing and ignored it.”

It took Robert several months before accepting that he needed help.  Coming back to the UK routinely for work, Robert visited a GP who prescribed him some antibiotics.  When the medication did not ease the pain in the back of Robert’s mouth, he decided to seek the advice of a dentist.

Robert adds: “One day, I was doing training at a dental practice and said, ‘would you mind taking a look at this?’.  The dentist put me in the chair, took one look before bringing in a colleague. They immediately said, ‘when you return to France, you need to see somebody urgently’.

“I went back later that week. Like the UK, the French health care system is very good.  They were rapid.  I made a call and went in for a consultation.  The next day I was in a specialist unit for a biopsy and two days later I received the diagnosis that I had mouth cancer on my tonsils.

“This was my 62nd birthday. Quite the present.”  

A human biology and immunology graduate from the University of London, Robert has spent much of his adult life working in healthcare. 

Because of his work alongside dental practices, Robert was aware of mouth cancer, but it wasn’t that high up on his agenda.  He did not smoke or drink an excessive amount of alcohol.  Robert considered himself a fit and healthy person.

“When I was told that I had mouth cancer, I was in disbelief,” Robert says.  “A feeling of denial that it can’t possibly happen to me.  I lived healthily and didn’t think I was in a risk factor group.  For a time, I detached myself from it all and convinced myself that it’s fine and nothing to worry about.  

“The news effected the children more.  We had the family over for the holidays and they were thinking is this going to be the last Christmas?  It was that thought which made me think it was really serious.”  

Thankfully, Robert’s cancer was caught early.  He underwent a 12-week course of chemotherapy and radiotherapy and has since been able to make a good recovery. 

However, the lasting impact of mouth cancer continues to be with him.

Robert adds: “I still suffer with a dry mouth, as the radiotherapy damaged my salvia glands.

“I also struggle a lot with taste…  which for somebody who enjoys their food, living in France on wine and cheese for four years, that’s a big problem.  If I eat a bar of Cadbury’s I can tell what it is for the first 30 seconds, but after that, it may as well be margarine.  I also used to enjoy a vindaloo but now a korma seems hot.”

Due to Robert’s treatment, he also needs to wear a mouthguard filled with fluoride gel when he sleeps.  He will need to do this for the next five years, to help strengthen his teeth and maintain good oral health – something that many mouth cancer survivors face difficulties with.

Robert has become a mouth cancer ambassador for the Oral Health Foundation, to share his experiences and raise awareness of the disease that has changed his life.

Spotting mouth cancer early is crucial for beating the disease and Robert urges everyone to be more aware of the changes that occur inside their mouth.

Robert says: “The lesson I took away is that even if you are a non-smoker, you are still at risk.  You can’t sit there and be complacent and think this can’t happen to me.  So many people like myself, will make the mistake of dismissing the symptoms and think they will go away.   

“Mouth cancer can happen to anybody, however fit or normal you think you are.  That’s why regular dental check-ups are so important.  Having a specialist like a dentist look in your mouth routinely is as vital as cervical screening or a breast cancer check.  Even if there’s nothing there, it’s the reassurance.  Regular dental check-ups can be a matter of life or death.” 

Mouth cancer can appear on the tonsils, tongue, gum, cheek, head and neck.

Be alert to mouth ulcers which do not heal within three weeks, red and white patches and unusual lumps or swellings.  Persistent hoarseness, or a numbness on the lips or tongue are the other common signs. If you notice any of these symptoms, visits a dentist or doctor immediately. 

You can find more information on mouth cancer by going to www.mouthcancer.org and by following November’s Mouth Cancer Action Month on social media via #MouthCancerAction.

Karen Liesching-Schroder’s mouth cancer journey

Karen, 47, was ‘shocked beyond belief’ to be told that a seemingly harmless mouth ulcer on her tongue was actually mouth cancer

Having appeared during the school holidays of 2016 it was not until early February that Karen finally got a biopsy done and her worst fears were realised; it was cancer of the tongue. When asked if she had any idea that it would be cancer, she replied, “I had no idea, I’m a healthy person, I run, don’t smoke, don’t drink much and I eat healthy food.”

A treatment plan for the mother-of-two from Rochford, Essex, was drawn up. She endured what she describes as ‘unbearable agony’ during her course of treatment for the disease and claims going for runs kept her ‘sane.’ Radiotherapy, a neck dissection and gruelling surgery to have the side of her tongue removed simply weren’t enough to keep her from continuing to run with her local club.

Speaking of her determination to remain mentally and physically healthy in the thick of her battle with cancer, Mrs Liesching-Schroder said: “I just needed to run. Control was being taken away from me by cancer and this was one way of getting control back. When it came to the end of radiotherapy, I had the goal that I wanted to run the Southend half-marathon. I was told by clinicians that I wouldn’t be allowed to do it. But nobody could stop me. It’s what’s keeping me going and I have to do this. Running was my way of being free from it all.”

Despite being told that for immediately after her course of radiotherapy finished the side effects of the treatment would be worse, Karen still completed what she claims to be her ‘best run ever.’

“It was all about celebrating life. Being able to do that was really important to me. My running club were all there at the end with high-fives, a massive line of them. It was brilliant. I had unbelievable support all the way through from so many people. I was very lucky.”

Mrs Liesching-Schroder’s life has never been the same following her treatment. Complications including “an aggressive form of oral thrush,” learning to speak properly again and concerns about cancer returning are just some of the obstacles she has faced over the last few years, but nothing has stopped her from running regularly.

“After you’ve had cancer, you see life a bit differently and you feel a bit more alive afterwards. There’s a lot of things out there to enjoy and now I feel I have a second chance at doing just that.”

Years on from her initial diagnosis, she is determined to use her story to help raise awareness of the disease.

“A lot of people think that mouth cancer only happens to smokers, but my story shows that isn’t always the case. If you have worried about an unusual change in your mouth then get it checked out. Don’t be frightened but it’s important that you don’t suffer in silence and to remember that the sooner it’s checked out, the sooner it can be sorted. Chances are it’ll be fine but in the rare case it is not, it could be a life saver.”

For more information about mouth cancer, including how to spot the disease early, how to reduce your risk and what to do if you notice any of the early warning signs, visit www.mouthcancer.org.

Mouth cancer in young people: Charlotte’s story

As part of November’s Mouth Cancer Action Month, Charlotte Webster, who lives in Peters field, Hampshire, tells us her experience of mouth cancer.  Charlotte hopes her story will raise awareness of the disease and encourage more people to check themselves for signs of mouth cancer

At 26 years old, Charlotte was given the life-changing news that she had mouth cancer. The ex-cabin crew member now training to be a midwife from Hampshire does not fit the typical mouth cancer patient – being a young woman who’s a non-smoker and an active gym-goer.  But Charlotte represents a growing number of younger people who are being diagnosed with mouth cancer and also is just one of thousands of people who have been diagnosed with mouth cancer and had to face their treatments with the added struggle of COVID regulations and isolation.

Ahead of November’s Mouth Cancer Action Month, Charlotte talks about her own journey, opens up about what led her to getting checked out, the disbelief of a diagnosis, and reveals how mouth cancer continues to change her life. 

“I had some ulcers for about three to four years before I had my [mouth cancer] operation, but I wasn’t worried about them at first because I do get run down and I was jet-lagged and flying all the time with my job and often ulcers are sign of celiac disease, which I have, so I put it down to that. They came and went but always in the same area, they never fully went but they used to flare up like if I was run down.

“About a year before I had my operation I went to the dentist and they said ‘well, I don’t really know what it is, might be because your teeth are rubbing so we would advise maybe getting your teeth straightened and have your wisdom teeth taken out’. So, I did that. I paid for braces, got my wisdom tooth taken out and had really great teeth, but still had the ulcers.”

After these initial early signs of mouth cancer were missed by her dentist and other professionals, Charlotte went on to have a biopsy in April 2021 after her ulcers got significantly worse.

“They felt like ulcers do, but just a bigger patch and they started to turn white, and they had like red around them as well, so they looked quite like inflamed. I thought maybe it was a bit of an infection or something. My mum kept telling me to go and get it checked so I went to my doctor in January and he said he wanted to send me for a biopsy which I got around April.

“I went in for the results, and he said, ‘have you got anyone with you today?’ And I was thinking yeah my other half is in the car with the dog. And he said, ‘Do you want to bring him in?’ and I just looked him and I said ‘it’s not good is it?’ and he was like ‘no, it’s not. I’m really sorry, you’ve got cancer’ and I was like, ‘What do you mean? Surely not.’ and I think I almost laughed. It was such a shock because I’m otherwise a healthy person.”

Charlotte also told us about her time in intensive care.

“It was hard, and I remember I couldn’t see mum which was really hard too. I couldn’t wait to get out of hospital, as amazing as the staff were, my goal was ‘right, just get home’. To get discharged you need to show the staff you can drink, swallow, keep stuff down, you know, all the rest of it. So, they listen to your swallow for a while and then they’ll test it.

“My tracheostomy was fitted for seven days so my body hadn’t swallowed or breathed through my mouth in so long that often your muscles take a while to get back to that. And I had to have my tracheostomy taken out, and I remember the first time they tried to take it out. They covered this hole so I could then breathe through here and it wouldn’t, it just couldn’t, I think my body wasn’t ready because it was like being suffocated because I couldn’t breathe through my mouth. it was so like, it’s just like I had a mouth full of like straw or hay. It was just so hard, so husky, so stuck. And I remember the panic, I was like no, I can’t, so they tried again the next day and then every day it just got a bit better and better.”

After getting home from the hospital Charlotte continued to get support from different professionals including counsellors, dieticians, and speech therapists, but also emphasised how important she found the support she got on social media from other mouth cancer sufferers.

“It’s a different kind of like support that you get because you know that they feel the same, like one guy said to me ‘I saw your video of you sipping the water for the first time. I laughed my head off because I felt exactly the same!’ and before my operation there was one lady who said she would chat to me, but I chose to speak to her after my op because I just wanted to, not really know much, I just wanted to get it done and out the way. But afterwards I messaged her about one of the things I was most worried about – I asked her to send me a voice note because I wanted to know that I wasn’t going to sound like you couldn’t understand me that was the only thing I was worried about. Because I know unfortunately it does happen some people, but she reassured me.”

Charlotte also shared some thoughts about mouth cancer in young people.

“There is a stigma against mouth cancer, I was told ‘oh, you’re too young’, ‘God it won’t be that’, ‘no it won’t be that’, and it does happen. It really can happen to anyone not just smokers because that’s such a stigma – it really annoys me. People think you have to be like a really old man that smokes 50 a day, but you don’t. It took this tiny little poster in the clinic for me to, to be like, ‘oh my God, that’s mouth cancer’ and by then it was too late anyway.”

Learn more about mouth cancer by visiting www.mouthcancer.org.

New NHS dentistry reforms receive a mixed response from oral health charity

A new package of proposals to reform NHS dentistry in England has received a mixed response from the Oral Health Foundation

In a letter penned to dental practices, NHS England outlined the first significant changes to the delivery of NHS dental care in 16 years.

Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the Oral Health Foundation, says: “The new reforms to NHS dentistry are welcome changes in the right direction.  The long-awaited adjustments to UDAs should make it easier to treat high-need patients and go some way in reducing inequalities.  The dental profession has been calling for such changes for over a decade, so they are long overdue.

“We are also supporting the move of allowing dental therapists to start courses of treatment, although even more must be done to fully utilise the skills of the entire dental team.

“Unfortunately, the new reforms stop well short of addressing urgent issues within NHS dentistry, such as the diminishing workforce and access to NHS dentistry.

“A move towards extending recall intervals will only scratch the surface of current access problems and a plan to address manpower shortages is needed immediately.  It is also extremely disappointing that the new reforms do not in any way tackle the postcode lottery of dental access in England.

“Fundamental reform is still needed.  Whether it is increasing the NHS dental workforce, or improving access across England, there must be a greater commitment toward additional funding for NHS dentistry.  Despite servicing an ever-increasing population, government investment in NHS dentistry continues to decline in the UK.  Ultimately, reforms without the necessary financial investment will only have a limited and short-term effect.”  

A summary of changes to NHS dentistry, which will take effect from this Autumn, include:

  • A minimum UDA (Units of Dental Activity) value. The payment dentists receive for hitting a target is now set at a minimum of £23.00.
  • A higher reward for treating 3 or more teeth. Dentists will now receive 5 UDAs for treating 3 or more teeth. This is an increase on the current level of 3 UDAs which are applied to any number of teeth treated.
  • A new payment rate for complex treatment. Root canal treatment on molar teeth will now be rewarded with 7 UDAs.
  • A greater role for dental therapists. This means that other members of the dental team can start treatments for patients with the hope of reducing access issues.

Oral Health Foundation: Cost of living crisis contributing to deterioration of oral health

The rise in cost of living could lead to a deterioration in the nation’s oral health, according to the Oral Health Foundation. 

New research by the charity shows more than nine-in-ten (94%) UK adults have been affected in some way by the rising cost of living, with nearly two-in-three (62%) experiencing a significant increase in their outgoings. 

Data reveals around four-in-five (82%) are being forced into making sacrifices into their spending habits, with one-in-four (25%) cutting back on oral health products like toothpaste, mouthwash and interdental brushes. 

The increase in living costs is also labelled as a factor for one-in-three (31%) who have not visited a dentist in over two years while one-in-four (25%) parents have had to spend less money on their oral health to look after their children’s teeth. 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, around one-in-ten (12%) say their oral health has declined. 

The Oral Health Foundation is concerned that rising costs could lead to a widening of oral health inequalities and calls for more support to help those in the greatest need. 

Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the Oral Health Foundation, says: “Rising costs have hit the poorest families hardest and now we are seeing this impact on the health of the mouth. It is an unjust and unfair travesty that some people are having to make choices between putting food on the table and heating their home, and buying toothpaste, deodorant and shampoo. 

“Buying habits are linked to behavioural habits and we’re concerned that many people feel like they have little choice but to give up twice daily brushing just to make their toothpaste last a little longer.  Absolutely nobody should be put in the position where they have to make sacrifices to the health of their mouth.  

“Government is rightly under increasing pressure to end the cost of living crisis.  They must now commit to a levelling up agenda that prevents a widening of oral health inequalities so that everybody can achieve the standards of oral health that they deserve.” 

More data from the Oral Health Foundation suggests oral health products are some of the last essentials people are willing to go without.  Luxuries like holidays (53%) and tv subscriptions (43%) come top of the list of items the UK public has given up over the last year.

Oral health was also deemed a greater priority than hair products, skin care products, and make-up.  

On average, UK households spend £4.70 per week on oral health products, however, the majority (38%) spend as little as £2 a week.  Worryingly, twice as many households (22%) are now cutting back on how much they spend on their oral health compared to those who are choosing to spend more (11%). 

The rise in the cost of living has led over half (55%) of UK adults to feel like they have neglected their teeth over the last two years.  As a result, more than one-in-five (28%) now regularly feel self-conscious or anxious because of their smile.

“Many people view good oral health as an important factor in their overall appearance, and in most cases, the health of the mouth can play a significant role in a person’s confidence to smile,” adds Dr Carter.

“This is most likely because a healthy smile often translates to an attractive smile, and this will make a person feel better about themselves.  A smile communicates a sign of friendship, trust and acceptability.  As these are things most people strive towards, it means that taking good care of the mouth is incredibly important.”

For a healthy mouth, the Oral Health Foundation advises brushing teeth last thing at night and at one other time during the day with a fluoride toothpaste.

The charity is also keen to highlight the importance of cutting down on sugary foods and drinks you have and keeping to regular dental visits.  Health experts also advise cleaning between your teeth with an interdental brush once a day while chewing sugar free gum can also be helpful to neutralise plaque acid build-up throughout the day.

Dr Carter says: “Look after the mouth is very easy and does not take a lot of time.  Government must do more to allow people the means and opportunity to care for their own mouths and support those in financial difficulties with the basic tools that are needed to do this.”