Dentistry’s 2023 round up – Dentistry

Dentistry's 2023 round up

It has been a significant year for UK dentistry – from landmark court judgements, workforce plans and the closing down of that direct-to-consumer aligner company. Check out 2023’s top dental stories and events below. 


Rishi Sunak claims that UK has ‘more NHS dentists’ since new contract changes is a ‘grotesque misrepresentation’

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the UK now has ‘more NHS dentists’ since the new NHS contract changes were introduced in 2022.

In Prime Minister’s Questions, Sunak made the claim after questioning from Lancaster and Fleetwood’s MP, Cat Smith.

‘There are no NHS dentists taking on patients in Lancaster,’ she said.

‘For those of my constituents who are lucky enough to have one, are waiting months for an appointment.

‘Can I ask the Prime Minister how long he had to wait for his last NHS dental appointment?’

Dental profession calls out harmful aligners

‘As a dental profession we need to unite and create awareness’ – following the increasing demand for direct-to-consumer aligners, three dentists address the dangers of this treatment and how the profession should approach the issue.

The dangers of direct-to-consumer aligners have been flooding social media this past year.

This comes after the continued growth of this orthodontic treatment, particularly following the ‘Zoom boom’ which heightened the demand for orthodontics.


Dental nurse removed from register after CPD declaration slip up

A dental nurse was made unemployed for not declaring her CPD and said she had to wait six to eight months to be restored to the GDC register.

The dental nurse was removed from the GDC register after failing to complete the CPD section on her registration.

She had met her CPD requirements for every cycle and paid her Annual Retention Fee (ARF) in July last year. However, she failed to declare her CPD.

As a result, her employer dismissed her and she was made unemployed as a result.

GDC introduces new flexible legislation for overseas registration

Also in February – changes were made to the General Dental Council’s (GDC) legislation governing international routes to registration.

The new reforms replaced rules that set out the process for overseas registration.

Those who qualify outside the UK represent a significant proportion of professionals on the UK register and make an important contribution to the provision of dental services.

The updated legislation brought immediate changes, affecting those who had been unable to sit the Overseas Registration Exam (ORE). The exam was suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This morning, the Health and Social Care Committee received 'brutally honest' oral evidence on the state of NHS dentistry from dental leaders. March

‘Grotesque display of priorities’ – NHS dental charge increase will hit hard

As the cost of living crisis continued, NHS dental charge prices were hiked amidst growing concerns over the impact on the public.

Charges in England increased by 8.5% from 24 April 2023. This meant the cost of a band 1 treatment like a check up increased from £23.80 to £25.80 while a band 2 like a filling will increase from £65.20 to £70.70. 

The British Dental Association (BDA) argued that many on modest incomes will be forced to think twice about seeking care.

Parliamentary inquiry into the state of NHS dentistry has opened

March was a big month for NHS dentistry – the Health and Social Care Committee received ‘brutally honest’ oral evidence on its current state from dental leaders.

MPs heard the facts about the state of NHS dentistry in the first public evidence session into the Health and Social Care Committee’s NHS dentistry inquiry.

The inquiry aimed to deepen MPs’ and the public’s understanding of the problems people are having in accessing NHS dentistry.


My experience as a trans man in dentistry – and how it can be more inclusive

We heard from dental hygiene student Ben Marriott who opened up about his own experience as a trans man in dentistry and how some simple steps could help to make dentistry more trans-inclusive.

This included:

  • Not making assumptions about people’s gender based on voice or appearance
  • Having gender neutral toilet facilities and changing rooms in addition to male and female
  • Letting patients know on your website that you are a trans and LGBTQIA-friendly practice.

Dental profession bites back at claims NHS dentistry is ‘recovering’

The profession urged parliament to set out a clear roadmap to reform for government after it tried to ‘defend the indefensible’.

The inquiry into the state of NHS dentistry continued as the Health and Social Care Committee heard more oral evidence yesterday at the end of April.

The BDA disputed claims made by MP Neil O’Brien that NHS dentistry was on the road to ‘recovery’. The minister repeatedly spoke of NHS activity rising by ‘a fifth’ in the last year.

But dental leaders stressed this ‘growth’ is based on comparing 2021/22 figures with the depths activity fell to during the COVID-19 pandemic.


High Court overturns GDC decision to erase dentist

In a landmark decision, the High Court found that NHS regulations do not forbid ‘top-up’ fees after the GDC struck off a dentist.

Lucy Jane Williams, the dentist, was charged with professional misconduct allegations, including charging ‘top-up’ private fees in addition to NHS charges. She had provided three patients with an NHS crown and offered a ceramic crown for an additional top-up.

The GDC’s Professional Conduct Committee argued that NHS regulations did not allow such mixing, that she had behaved ‘contrary to a fundamental tenet’ of  NHS charging, and that she was dishonest. As a result, she was erased from the register.

After Williams appealed, however, the High Court confirmed that ‘top-up’ fees were permitted by the NHS regulations, and that mixing NHS and private treatment was allowed – and on the same tooth.

As a result, the judge found her erasure to be wrong and ‘procedurally unfair’.

GDC versus Williams – the profession reacts

After the High Court overturned the GDC’s decision to erase a dentist for charging top-up fees, we hear from people in the profession about what this means for dentistry and the GDC.

The High Court has found that NHS regulations do not forbid ‘top-up’ fees, after the General Dental Council (GDC) struck off a dentist.

Lucy Jane Williams was erased from the register due to professional misconduct allegations including charging ‘top-up’ private fees in addition to NHS charges.Dentistry's Top 50 2023


Dentistry’s Top 50 2023

June saw the release of dentistry’s most anticipated list – the Top 50.

Meet the people shaping dentistry’s brave new world, against a backdrop of change, challenge and disruption.

Who are the people making a difference in dentistry? Who are the leaders, the innovators? Where are the unsung heroes – and who are the people wielding influence? 

It’s a list with a difference – in that it is chosen by us – but with its principles intact. The Dentistry Top 50 is about finding those who are driving dentistry forward and sharing their successes with the dental community at large.

Dental profession has lost faith in the GDC, poll suggests

The GDC were back in the headlines – this time because Laboratory‘s Matt Everatt ran a poll that found that 99.5% of dental professionals do not think the GDC is fit to regulate.

Following the GDC versus Williams case, a poll was undertaken to find out what the profession thinks about the GDC.

The results found that only 0.45% of those who took part still has faith in the GDC.


New government plans to boost number of dentists in England

Technically, the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan was released on the last day of June – but conversations within the profession were the main talking point of the month of July.

The proposal set out plans to train thousands more dentists in England over the next five to ten years.

This included increasing training places for dental therapists and hygiene professionals to more than 500 by 2031/32.

It will also increase training places for dentists by 40% to more than 1,100 by this same year.

In support of this, it will increase training places for dental therapy and hygiene professionals by 28% by 2028/29, with an increase of 24% for dentists to 1,000 places over the same period.

Dental profession slams Rishi Sunak after he forgets name for dental therapists

The Prime Minister forgot the name for dental therapists in July after suggesting they take up more dental work to relieve NHS dentistry access issues.

Following the publication of the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan, Rishi Sunak was asked at a press conference whether it addressed the issues people are having with getting an NHS dentist.

He said: ‘One of the examples of reform is in dentistry where we can have people who are not dentists but are allied health professionals, where it’s called – what are they called? Therapists or dental… – one of the roles, where we expect them to do more dental work.’


‘AI would be more sympathetic’ – dental technician slams GDC for his erasure

A dental technician who fell short on his CPD requirements after being diagnosed with a brain tumour slammed the GDC for its handling of his case.

Amidst growing concern with the GDC’s treatment of its registrants expressed by the dental profession, cases of GDC members being struck off the register were increasingly scrutinised in August.

Simon Barrington was diagnosed with a brain tumour while working as a dental technician.

During this period, CPD requirements changed from 50 hours in five years to 10 hours each year.

According to Simon, he was unaware of this change and did not manage to meet the requirement within that year. This resulted in his removal from the GDC register.

He said: ‘It would be lovely to see them treating individual’s cases as unique. I think AI would be more sympathetic.’

More than one third of dentists use AI in practice, study says

More than one third of dentists are using artificial intelligence in their practice, according to research.

A new study showed that 35% of dentists have implemented AI in their dental practice while 77% of dentists reported positive results after applying it.

In July 2023, conducted a survey of 1,265 licensed dentists and patients, focusing on its future merits and risks.

Other key findings include:

  • 62% of surveyed dentists agreed that some of the operational tasks in dental clinics could be performed by AI
  • 55% believe that the advancements in AI could result in potential layoffs in the dental care industry in the next five years
  • ‘Lack of human interaction during treatment’ is the biggest fear for 72% of patients about integrating AI in dentistry.


Uchenna Okoye: 1969-2023

Uchenna Okoye, the trailblazing aesthetic dentist known to millions through her regular media appearances as a dental expert, died at the age of 53.

A statement released by her family via Instagram explained that Uchenna passed away on Friday 15 September following a short illness.

Tributes from the dental profession hailed her as a ‘wonderful talent’ and a ‘trailblazer’ in cosmetic dentistry.

Uchenna was one of the UK’s most prominent dentists, with a successful media career that spanned almost two decades.

Government ‘effectively said it cannot afford NHS dentistry’, says BDA

The government ‘effectively told the profession it cannot afford NHS dentistry’ as it prepared to impose an approach to pay, said the BDA.

After publicly accepting the independent pay review body’s recommendation of a pay increase of 6%, the BDA said the Department of Health had refused to reflect the soaring operating costs of delivering NHS care.

It imposed a rock bottom uplift of 3.23% to cover expenses. This left a total uplift in NHS contract values of 5.13%.


Smile Direct Club files for bankruptcy

Big news in October – direct-to-consumer aligner company Smile Direct Club filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

In its petition, it listed $499 million of assets and more than $1 billion of liabilities.

This comes four years after raising $1.35 billion in an initial public offering. The Chapter 11 filing allowed the company to continue to operate while it creates a plan to repay its creditors.

Want to know what happened next? Skip to December for more on this.

ARF for 2024 to be reduced, GDC announces

The GDC announced that the Annual Retention Fee (ARF) for 2024 will see a reduction of 10% for dentists and 15.8% for dental care professionals.

As a result, the 2024 ARF for dentists will come to £621 – a reduction of £69. In addition, the ARF for dental care professionals will be reduced by £18, for a total of £96.

This comes after the GDC’s council reviewed its priorities for the next three years in line with the Corporate Strategy 2023-2025.


NHS to offer artificial pancreas to patients with type 1 diabetes

More than 150,000 adults and children with type 1 diabetes will soon be eligible for an artificial pancreas on the NHS, it was announced.

Experts described the device as a ‘game changer’, saying it will save the NHS money.

The ‘hybrid closed loop’ uses a continuous glucose monitor attached to the body to sense and correct blood glucose levels. Users will no longer have to inject insulin or measure their blood sugar levels through finger prick tests.

During clinical trials, the new system was found to be more effective at maintaining blood sugar levels than standard treatments. It will also cause less disruption to daily activities as it is fully automated.

Complaints about NHS dentistry increase 66% in five years

The number of complaints about NHS dental treatment rose by two thirds as patients continue to face access issues.

The number of complaints the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) received every year about NHS dental services surged from 1,193 in 2017-18 to 1,982 in 2022-23.

Complaints referred to the increase in fees, the standard of care and difficulty accessing NHS dental services in England.

The proportion of upheld complaints also increased. For example, in the same period it rose from 42% to 78%.

Dental nurse removed from register after missing CPD deadline by two hours December

Smile Direct Club shuts down following bankruptcy

Smile Direct Club has shut down weeks after filing for bankruptcy, it was revealed.

The direct-to-consumer aligner company announced the ‘incredibly difficult decision’ to shut down operations.

The statement read: ‘Smile Direct Club has made the incredibly difficult decision to wind down its global operations, effective immediately. For new customers interested in Smile Direct Club services, thank you for your interest, but aligner treatment is no longer available through our telehealth platform.

‘For existing customers, we apologise for the inconvenience, but customer care support is no longer available. Thank you for your support and letting us improve over two million smiles and lives.’

You can also read about the reaction to this news here.

Dental nurse removed from register after missing CPD deadline by two hours

As part of our Saving Grace campaign, one dentist opened up about the impact the current regulation has had on three members of her team – and why this needs to change.

Dentistry believes the current system lacks the necessary flexibility and understanding, and does not account for human error or unforeseen circumstances that may cause a dental professional to miss registration or CPD deadlines.

As a result, we would like to work with the GDC to help introduce a mandatory grace period following both registration and CPD statement deadlines

Please join us in advocating for this crucial reform by signing our Saving Grace petition today:

See previous years’ round ups here:

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