More on keeping you mouth clean and your teeth and gums healthy to provide better health-efficiency

Helping your dentist to help you


The Faculty of General Dental Practice (UK) (FGDP(UK)) is the academic home for dental professionals in the UK. Based at The Royal College of Surgeons of England, the FGDP(UK) aims to promote the highest standards of care available to patients in their high street dental practice by encouraging dental professionals to enhance their skills and knowledge through ongoing training, education and research. Their Communications Officer, describes what patients can do to improve their oral health and to help ensure they receive high quality treatment should they need it.


A healthy body needs a healthy mouth
We all know that one of the ‘golden rules’ when it comes to keeping fit and healthy is to eat a balanced diet. However, it can be easy to forget that a healthy mouth is also vital to our overall health since all our daily nutrients have to pass through it. So, how should we look after our oral health and what can your dental professional do to help?

Over the years, oral healthcare has focussed increasingly on prevention of tooth decay and dental disease. One important way to help improve oral hygiene and prevent dental problems from developing is to floss between the teeth before brushing them. Your dental hygienist can offer help on flossing, as well as advice on how to keep the teeth and mouth healthy and avoid tooth decay and gum disease.

It should also be remembered that even if you are not experiencing trouble with your teeth or gums, regular checkups with your dentist will help to identify potential problems at an early stage, which could make any treatment more straightforward. Your dentist also provides important checks for diseases that can sometimes go unnoticed by a patient, such as oral cancer.


How often should I see my dentist?
It was once widely accepted that people should visit the dentist every six months. However, a review by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), in conjunction with others including the FGDP(UK), concluded that there was no proof that every six months was ideal.


The latest guidelines say that individuals should be assessed for their own needs, taking into account not just their dental history, but also their medical history, their diet and their lifestyle. Based on this information, the dentist may decide that a patient should be seen every three months, while for others this may be only every two years. He or she will also determine whether or how often a dentist or a dental hygienist needs to scale and polish your teeth.


High street dentistry is changing
There have been significant changes to dental care services over the past few decades. New clinical areas have since evolved within dentistry, such as the fitting of implants and cosmetic treatments.


A number of dental specialisms are now recognised by the body that regulates dental professionals – the General Dental Council (GDC) – and patients needing specialist treatment are increasingly referred to a dentist who has enhanced skills in this area.


The FGDP(UK) has recently worked with the Department of Health to develop a scheme allowing patients to have quicker and easier access to more advanced types of treatment from dentists in their local area, rather than having to see a hospital consultant – see the information on Dentists with Special Interests on the FGDP(UK) website.

There have also been changes in the way that dental care is delivered. Modern high street dentistry involves an integrated team of professionals, which could include several dentists (some of whom might be specialists or have an area of specialist interest), dental nurses, dental hygienists and dental therapists, as well as receptionists and a practice manager. Access to care has also altered, with more dentists moving away from NHS dentistry into private practice.


What can I expect from my dentist?
Oral healthcare is a two-way process between you, the patient, and the staff who care for you. You have the right to expect high quality care, but there are things you can do to help ensure that you receive this. In 2011, the FGDP(UK) published Patients’ Rights and Responsibilities, a guide that sets out what patients can expect as part of their dental care service, as well as the patient’s own responsibilities.


The guide includes patients’ rights in terms of information on decisions regarding treatment, how you are treated as a person during your care, and information on cost of treatment. It also describes patient responsibilities, including the manner in which staff and other patients are treated, appropriate disclosure of information, and attendance at appointments. Patients’ Rights and Responsibilities can be downloaded from the patient information pages of the FGDP(UK) website


What is a ‘good’ dentist and how do I find one?
Many people rely on word of mouth to get an idea of a dentist’s reputation. However, it may also be worth checking the GDC’s dental register (available online) to see if a dentist has any additional qualifications (shown by the letters after their name), which indicate that a dentist has completed extra training over and above the basic compulsory dental degree (BDS or BChD), or if the dentist has enhanced skills in a particular area, such as fitting tooth implants.


For instance, MFGDP(UK), Dip Imp Dent RCS Eng, MGDS or FFGDP(UK) after the dentist’s name indicates that he or she has a postgraduate diploma from the Faculty of General Dental Practice (UK) – you can check out what these qualification letters mean on the FGDP(UK) website.

NHS Direct holds a list of NHS dentists practising in your local area and the British Dental Association can also offer assistance on finding a dentist. All dentists must be registered with the GDC so that they can practise in the UK (this will also apply to other dental team members, such as dental nurses and hygienists, by July 2012) – you can check that your dentist is licensed to practise by searching the GDC’s dental register.

General information for patients, including a list of some of the most common acronyms and abbreviations used in the world of dentistry, can be found on the patient information area of the FGDP(UK)’s website. The British Dental Health Foundation website also has a range of useful resources for patients.


Online resources
Faculty of General Dental Practice (UK) –
General Dental Council –
NHS Direct Online –
British Dental Health Foundation –
British Dental Association (patient’s site) –
BDA Find a Dentist –

Stedham House Dental Practice