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Too many patients visiting GPs rather than dentists

New research shows that far too many people are heading to their GP with oral health problems that would be far better suited to the attention of a dentist. GPs are feeling more and more under pressure as patients come to them with mouth problems.

The research, conducted by Comres for the Association of Dental Groups (ADG), found that out of the 1,007 doctors who were surveyed, 87 per cent of them believed that too many patients were turning to them with oral health problems rather than going to the dentist.

This is leading to a lack of available appointments as extra strain is put on GPs by patients who need the attention of a dentist rather than a doctor. These patients are often referred to a dentist straight away, which is of course an unfortunate waste of time for all involved.

The GPs also believed that more needed to be done in the way of education, with 96 per cent of those surveyed saying that more needs to be done to both encourage patients to turn to dentists when they have oral health issues and educate them on the appropriate time to visit a GP.

David Worskett, chair of the ADG, said: “People often think that dentists focus purely on teeth and gums, but actually, they are specialists in most aspects of oral health and we often find GPs refer patients back to their dentist if there is any treatment required.

“The message is, if you have any concerns about oral health related issues, be it a toothache or a long-term ulcer, you should be visiting your dentist rather than your GP.”

Mr Worskett also highlighted the importance of patients getting the right care quickly if they have a condition where early detection has a significant impact on recovery. This is especially relevant during Mouth Cancer Action Month, as mouth cancer treatment is more effective the earlier it is caught.

It seems that a dental marketing campaign is needed to educate patients about the right place to go when they have oral health concerns. Richard Ablett, a dentist with dental group IDH, said: “Your dentist is the right person to see if you have any concerns about oral health, especially when it comes to mouth cancer.”

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