Press release

Spit and polish for the new dental contract

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Spitting may be considered an unpleasant habit - but in terms of healthy teeth it can make a world of difference to your smile. Dentists across…

Dentists across the country are advising patients to think about their dental hygiene habits as part of a renewed focus on better oral health. Small changes like spitting instead of rinsing after brushing your teeth can help them to absorb fluoride from the toothpaste and protect your mouth from disease.

Giving simple tips to help patients prevent dental problems before they appear is a major part of the plan to modernise NHS dentistry. Today the Government has announced it will extend its dental pilot scheme which is working to provide the evidence needed to develop the new dental contract.

Since last September, dentists from 70 practices have been trialling new ways of working - around 25 extra practices will now join the pilot programme as it expands.

Lord Howe, Health Minister said:

“Patients have the biggest impact on their own oral health and making them more aware of ways to prevent disease is vital.

“I am delighted with the progress made since 2010 as more than a million new patients have now seen an NHS dentist. I am confident the new contract, when finalised, will take dentistry successfully into the future. It will have preventative care at its heart - and the pilots have a key role to play in making sure we get this right.”

The pilot sites have been fine tuning different elements of the new contract.

Inventive ways to encourage adults to take a bit more care with their oral health are being trialled and significant steps have been made to protect the teeth of children. The number of fluoride varnishes - a treatment which prevents tooth decay - has increased by 63 per cent in the last year.

Patients at the pilot sites are given a thorough dental check up and then a traffic light rating of red, amber or green depending on how healthy their mouth is. Dentists can then recommend a long term care plan for patients - and offer advice for better self care.

Barry Cockcroft, Chief Dental Officer for England said:

“The pilot scheme has been received incredibly positively by dentists and a lot of excellent work has been carried out so far.

“Significant improvements have been made in oral health since the 1970s and making people more aware of everyday things they can do to keep their mouths healthy will help this trend continue.”

The new pilot sites will join the scheme from April.

Notes to editors

Following these tips can cut down your risk of tooth decay by 40 per cent.

  • Spit after brushing don’t rinse. This can help beat tooth decay as it will allow fluoride from the toothpaste to strengthen teeth.
  • Brush for at least two minutes twice a day, preferably morning and night.
  • Use a toothpaste that contains the correct level of fluoride for adults (between 1350 and 1550 pm).
  • Take extra time to reach every part of the mouth and ensure all surfaces are brushed.
  • Limit the amount of sugar you eat and drink at meal times and don’t eat sugary snacks between meals.

Dental facts and children

  • Tooth decay is an almost entirely preventable disease, but we still see children requiring extractions of multiple teeth under general anaesthesia before they are 5 years old.
  • Figures show that although 69 per cent of under fives have had no experience of tooth decay, those children who do have on average of 3.54 affected teeth.
  • The process of tooth decay is started by sugars from food and drinks reacting with bacteria in dental plaque to produce acids. These start to dissolve the surface of the teeth.
  • The amount of damage is increased the longer and more often that sugars are in contact with teeth.

Important messages for babies and young children:

  • Exclusive breast-feeding is recommended for around the first six months. For those mothers who are unable, or choose not to, breast feed infant formulas are advised.
  • If bottle feeding, a cup rather than a bottle should be introduced from about 6 months. Babies should not be put to bed with a bottle in their mouth.
  • Sugary drinks should generally be avoided but if given they should be well diluted. Fruit juice should be diluted too and limited to meal times. Between meals babies should be offered milk or water.
  • Brushing with fluoride toothpaste should start as soon as the first tooth appears (approximately six months).
  • Children under three years should use a toothpaste containing no less than 1000 ppm fluoride, using no more than a smear.
  • Children under six should use no more than a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. Adults should supervise brushing until the child is 7-8 yrs old.