Dentistry Long Overdue For A Check Up
You could argue that dentistry in the UK has always been an inconvenient and stuffy affair. We beg to be accommodated on a dentist’s list of patients, we call to negotiate an appointment, we take time off work to get there, we wait for an age to be summoned to the chair and a dentist talks in dental speak over you as you lay prostrate in fear.
It’s about as appealing as queueing to be interrogated. Little wonder then that we have as a nation become the dental joke of the world – our Austin Powers teeth testament to our refusal to put up with paying for something we hate to do.
The problem is – the joke that we hide from the dentist is wearing as thin as the enamel on our molars. Our healthcare is suffering. It’s not all our fault either. In a poll by Daybreak, a staggering 95% of dentists agreed that patients were prevented from getting the best dental care by the way dentistry is run in the UK. Figures released in August stated that over half the population of Wales hadn’t seen a dentist in two years and consumer watchdog Healthwatch England said patients in the UK were given confusing and inaccurate information about where they can get dental care on the NHS.
Even worse – we are leaving a legacy of bad oral health to the next generations. Recent research has revealed that the number one reason our children go to the hospital – by a large margin – is for rotten teeth. This year to our collective parental shame – near on 26,000 children aged between five and nine years old have been admitted to hospital with rotten teeth between 2013 and 2014 – in some circumstances requiring an extraction of all of them. It is now the most common reason – with tonsillitis trailing behind – that our kids are admitted to hospital.
We seem to be doing everything wrong for children’s teeth – for instance, in an effort to cheat one of the five a day into their bloodstreams we are giving them fruit juice in the morning and on our instruction they are brushing the acid with their toothbrush into the enamel straight after the drink, in a counterproductive way.
All these little things are adding up. The combination of the multiple issues that affects our oral health is coming to a head. With every new news story it appears the dentistry landscape in the UK is a confusing, awkward, feared and miscommunicated mess.
The situation needs to change but how do you change an entire industry, the psychology of a nation and re-invent the whole idea of going to the dentist?
Well, one company says it’s no problem. The solution has even been done before with other healthcare branches – like the opticians. You put the practice smack bang in the middle of a popular supermarket. What’s more, the opticians have shown the path in more than one way – we all now know of brands of opticians like Specsavers and Tesco’s Opticians but how many dentistry practices can we name as brands?
Centre for Dentistry is aiming to roll out an initial phase of 150 new modern, friendly and dare they say stylish, dental centres throughout the UK’s Sainsbury’s chain of superstores. You can walk in – grab a trolley and park it at the dentist before you do your weekly shopping.
CEO of the new innovative dental centres, Lisa Riley revealed her vision: “It’s all about bringing a service to the customer and making them the most important part of the equation – of the service. Dentistry often treats people like battery hens – it’s an impersonal service. When you go to a hairdresser the experience is personal, intimate and relationships are forged and built on trust between customer and service provider. This is what we want to emulate. We have many brand values. We wanted to get the price point right and position ourselves within family budgets.”
The new centres go further – it’s not just about healthcare anymore.
“Good teeth gives people confidence,” says Riley. “We also want to promote cosmetic dentistry such as teeth whitening. It really is a full service – but the main point is to get the customer service right – that is essential. We don’t think dentistry has always treated people as customers – but simply patients. Patients sometimes get told off for not looking after themselves but ‘customers’ get listened to and treated with respect. We want to make the whole experience easy going for people.”
Ease of experience – that sounds like a new level of thinking for the dentists. With a supermarket you can park free and supermarkets are open most of the time, seven days a week. This means that kids may not have to be taken out of school, adults may not need to take time off work. The centres are private rooms of course but the familiar backdrop of the supermarket beyond may well be a psychological comfort to those who hate the tension of the waiting room, thumbing through old magazines before the white coat appears.
Whilst a dentist in a supermarket may sound a little strange at first, it might just provide the basis of a new methodology for our oral health that allows us an alternative and convenient choice – one that is long overdue.
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