Dental health provision: current situation
Since the NHS Primary Care Trusts took over in 2006, dental health provision in prisons has improved, although there are still difficulties related to coping with high demand; this reflects the situation in wider society where many people have difficulties accessing NHS dental care. Prisoners have the same rights to dental treatment as all other citizens and the majority are able to receive treatment for any conditions they may develop; occasionally, they may have to wait for treatment like patients do in the outside world. Dental practitioners have also highlighted the need for longer appointments with individual patients and increased communication between prison staff and health care professional to ensure the system is more efficient and effective.
Improving dental health
The standard of oral health is low in most prisoners; this is primarily due to neglect in the past and a lack of awareness of the dangers related to poor oral health. Dental experts are hoping to liaise with prison staff in order to improve the general standards of dental health amongst prisoners and introduce educational measures to make people aware of the benefits of having a good standard of oral health. In line with initiatives in wider society, dental and health experts are hoping to promote preventive measures in prisons; this will include educating residents in how to brush their teeth properly, which foods and drinks to avoid and how to use floss and mouthwash to boost dental health. Once any pre-existing conditions have been treated, it will then be possible for prisoners to take better care of their teeth and reduce the possibility of suffering from further illness or problems.
Thoughts for the future
Currently talks are underway to increase access to NHS dentists; once this has been achieved more focus will be put on preventive dentistry which will teach people good oral health habits and ensure all patients are able to visit their dentists regularly; with reference to dental care in prison this would enable prisoners to have regular routine check-ups; these would enable dentists to monitor existing conditions and identify any new problems. Regular check-ups also enable dentists to check for symptoms of serious conditions such as oral cancer; the chance of surviving this illness is increased by up to 90% if diagnosed early.