The United Kingdom recently unveiled plans to further streamline the country’s dental industry, asking therapists to perform routine drillings and fillings.
This move comes in response to a recent modification to the standard dental checkup procedure, which used to take 15 minutes and now takes 30, effectively halving the number of checkups a dentist can perform.
To pick up the slack, chief dental officer Dr. Barry Cockcroft recommends that junior staff take more of a role in routine fillings and extractions. Nurses should also perform more procedures such as flouride varnishes, according to Cockcroft.
“A dentist is very highly trained,” said Dr. Cockcroft, “and can carry out complex work such as crowns and bridges. Therapists can do extractions and fillings.”
The increased checkup time has been met with approval by most UK dentists, since it puts focus on preventing problems, not just treating them. But the realities of the new time constraints have increased wait times for patients.
For more complicated procedures, there’s already a built-in waiting time. Implants, for example, require time to heal before the structure is strong enough to support chewing. Mini-implants can take three-to-eight weeks, while traditional, larger implants can take three-to-six months.
Under the proposed system, dentists would spend less time on minor procedures, and have more time and scheduling flexibility to follow up with implant patients.
Dr. Cockcroft hopes these newly implemented strategies will increase efficiency for patients across the board.
The disparity in training time, however, may lead to what Dr. Tony Kilcoyne, of Haworth, West Yorkshire, calls a “false economy”. Dentists, with their usual five years of training, can perform drillings, fillings, and extractions more quickly than therapists, who typically only need three years of training.