Last month, an article in The Times revealed that the NHS is spending more than £26 million a year on GP appointments for dental problems, the equivalent of 600,000 consultations a year.
Why are patients seeing their GP and not a dentist?
There a few reasons why individuals might be turning to their GP for advice instead of an NHS dentist:
1. Rising dental costs
An NHS dental check up currently costs £19.70, whereas a GP appointment is paid for entirely by the NHS.
2. Availability of appointments
Some individuals may not even be registered with an NHS dentist, whereas others may find themselves faced with long waiting lists.
3. Dental phobia
Patients who are nervous about visiting the dentist may see their GP as a less intimidating option.
Some individuals may not know who the best person is to help with certain problems.
Unfortunately, though, there is very little that GPs can do to help patients with dental problems so this presents a big problem for both NHS funding and GP waiting lists. Last year there were 46 million failed attempts to see a GP caused by long waiting lists.
When should you visit your dentist?
To clear up any confusion over whether to see your dentist or doctor, here is a list of common dental health problems that you should see your dentist for:
- Dental access
- Chipped or cracked tooth
- Infected wisdom teeth
- Jaw pain
- Lost filling, crown or bridge
- Signs and symptoms that could be associated with mouth cancer:
- Sores or ulcers that don’t heal within three weeks
- Red or white patches
- Unusual lumps or swellings
If you are concerned about the symptoms of mouth cancer you can also contact your GP for advice, however, your dentist is likely to have more experience in diagnosing the condition.
The above problems aren’t considered medical emergencies. If, however, you knock a tooth out or are in considerable pain, you should seek immediate advice from your dentist, or failing this contact the NHS 111 emergency number for advice.
In the event of a severe trauma, go straight to your nearest accident and emergency department for urgent attention.
While we tend to visit the doctor when we have a problem, you should be visiting your dentist regularly for preventative care. Our goal is to keep your mouth clean and healthy so that you avoid any problems such as tooth decay and gum disease.