Caring, helpful, friendly and efficient is how John Savage describes the staff at Kent Community Dental Service. It was when John’s 92-year-old mother needed to see a dentist that he first came into contact with the team.
It was difficult for John to take his mum Phyllis to a dental clinic. She suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and often become confused when placed in a situation she is not familiar or comfortable with.
John said: “I knew my mother needed to see a dentist as she had a couple of rotten and broken teeth, but with her condition it is not easy to take her anywhere. I happened to be in Canterbury Health Centre seeing a podiatrist when I noticed a dental clinic in there.’’
John, of Sturry, near Canterbury, approached a nurse at the clinic and explained about his mum. He said: “I was advised that they thought mum would be eligible for community dental care but that her GP needed to refer her which is what happened.’’
What made the team’s care of his mother all the more special for John was that a dentist and his assistant were able to visit her at home. This meant that Phyllis was in her own surroundings. “It was perfect,’’ said John.
Not only that but the pair were able to carry out the treatment and care Phyllis needed there and then. John was delighted with how friendly they were and how they put his mother ‘completely at ease’.
“The dentist did three extractions right there and then. It saved my mother becoming distressed and anxious. They were really efficient, kind and caring. The after care was really good too.
“I had some concerns that mum’s gums were not healing well so contacted the service and they sent someone out to make sure everything was ok. Best of all they have now fitted her with a new set of bottom false dentures so she can eat her food properly again. It is wonderful.’’
The dental service, part of Kent Community Health NHS Trust, operates in east Kent from more than 18 sites and has two mobile dental surgeries. It also provides a service in Newham, east London.
The team includes dental specialists, dentists, dental nurses and oral health promoters. It also provides dental health education working with schools, including the fluoride varnish programme, as well as in care homes, residential homes, nurseries and children’s centres.
It provides examinations, routine care sedation, general anaesthetics, treatment patients with gum disease and home visits for patients who are housebound, elderly, children with special needs and those who are unable to access mainstream general dental services.
It’s not just home visits or treating older people that are the team’s focus. It also provides services for dental phobic patients, ranging from cognitive behaviour therapy to general anaesthesia.
Much of its work centres on education too. Although fewer children than ever before are experiencing tooth decay, there is still a significant number who do suffer from it. Tooth decay can lead to discomfort, pain and on occasion the need for general anaesthetic to have teeth removed. This, in turn, can lead to a phobia about visiting a dentist.
Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust’s Community Dental Service Strategic Business Unit Managing Director Mark Johnstone said: “Services like the community dental service provide information to parents and teachers and link in with schools and children’s centres to give the oral health message at an early age.
“The community dental service also carries out programmes to apply fluoride topically on to teeth and at every opportunity give support to parents and children to prevent further dental decay or avoid dental decay completely. Education is central to health promotion.’’
For further information, or if you need specialist dental care, please phone 0300 7900 158. If you are looking for a dentist, please phone the dental helpdesk on 0300 1234 412. In west Kent community dental services are operated by other providers.