A holistic success - a view from FGDP(UK)'s 25th anniversary conference

News Published: 
14 November 2017

Yann Maidment, FGDP(UK) Board Lead for Research, reports on ‘Holistic Dentistry – Time to put the mouth back into the body’.

To mark the 25th anniversary of the Faculty of General Dental Practice (UK), members joined an impressive line-up of internationally-renowned speakers for a conference on holistic dentistry, held at the National Motorcycle Museum in Solihull on 3 November in partnership with Simplyhealth Professionals.

The event was chaired by Professor Nairn Wilson, who remarked on the change in meaning of the word ‘holistic dentistry’ to no longer reference alternative treatments, but instead to indicate an integrated approach to oral health in the context of the patients’ general health.

Throughout the day delegates were given an insight into some of the latest scientific thinking, and were invited to consider the impact of this evidence not only on the patient but also the future role of the dental profession.

Professor Mike Curtis gave the opening lecture entitled ‘The importance of oral health and disease to systemic health and disease: tales of the microbiome’. Following the presentation of evidence linking the oral microbiome with systemic health and disease he left the audience with two examples of the future impact on the dental professional:

The possibility of using oral bacteria screening during dental visits to test for a marker for bowel cancer

The impact salivary nitrate levels may have on blood pressure and the idea this could be used to screen for risk with preventative advice being delivered

Avijit Banerjee then took to the stage for his presentation entitled ‘Dental caries, the body, mind and soul – the “MI”ssing link’. The philosophy of minimum intervention or MI dentistry is all about taking a holistic approach – working with the patient to help prevent oral disease. MI focuses on empowering patients to value the care provided and take personal responsibility for supporting the care which needs to be tailored to the individual. Avijit called for a move to adopting the term Oral Physician as opposed to Dental Surgeon to reflect this approach and again highlighted the impact this approach will have on the profession in the future.

Trevor Burke then provided the ‘ultimate guide to restoration longevity’, highlighting that the number 1 reason that patients sue their dental professional is due to unmet expectations. He presented evidence through his presentation on how this could be managed and how to assess approaches to restorations to provide the best care.

The keynote lecture was delivered by Professor Iain Chapple who took the opportunity to highlight the move in this century towards personalised medicine and the need for dental remuneration to change to reflect this approach. He called on the need for medical colleagues to learn more about the important role the mouth can play in general health. He reflected on practice in America, where insurance companies will pay to actively treat and manage periodontal conditions in order to affect symptoms of other conditions such as diabetes, chronic kidney disease and cardiovascular disease.

The holistic approach to healthcare requires a whole patient approach and with the critical role of prevention it is important to start this at an early age. Dr Stephen Fayle presented ‘Oral health in childhood – getting it right from the start’ and began by highlighting that 12% of children have dental caries by the age of three. There remains inequality in dental health across the UK and he called for managed clinical networks where the full dental team provides care under the supervision of specialists/consultants.

Nairn Wilson closed the programme by outlining a future vision of oral health practitioners as team leaders with primary oral healthcare providers formed from a team of hygienists, therapists, CDTs and oral health advisors supported by extended duties dental nurses, dental technicians and other practice staff. Each should play to their own expertise to form an effective team delivering oral healthcare. It is time to harness the fact that patients often spend longer with a dental professional than other health disciplines to offer the best holistic care for the patient?

At the end of the programme Janet Clarke, Deputy Chief Dental Officer for England, took to the stage to update the audience on the status of key NHS England projects including the diabetes and oral health toolkits, contract reform status, digital transformation of NHS dentistry and upcoming national guidelines and standards.

Throughout the day, the thought-provoking presentations were received very positively and were the source of much discussion amongst the attendees.

If you have an interest in these topic areas, please check the FGDP(UK) website in the coming weeks, where resources from the event will be made available.

Members and subscribers may also wish to refer to their copy of the Autumn 2017 edition of the Primary Dental Journal, which has a theme of Extended Integrated Care – or access it online.