Dental care: Your comments

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Christmas party food
Image caption,
Christmas is a time of indulgence, but it can take its toll on teeth

In this week's "Scrubbing Up", Newcastle University dentistry expert Professor Jimmy Steele, says that patients who consume sugary diets and do not look after their teeth, should not get expensive dental treatments on the NHS.

So are we prepared to pay to avoid treatment? Should the dental team be paid to stop disease before it starts even if that means less treatment?

BBC News website readers have sent their comments.

Your comments

A reasonable deal? Well perhaps - but it isn't the 'deal' that we've signed up to. The actual deal is that we fund the NHS through our taxes (and additional charges) and, whilst we should listen politely to the advice given by NHS professionals (our servants), we are then entitled to expect those professionals to do as they are told and provide the services that we require and for which they are being paid. David Williams, Sheffield

Never mind getting expensive dental treatment on the NHS, try getting ANY dental treatment on the NHS! Even if you do manage to find a dentist who takes adult NHS patients, you still have to pay again, after already paying your taxes. In dentistry, the government has completely failed to meet its obligations, so there is little point berating those who don't keep their teeth in good condition when the entire NHS dental provision is in an even worse state than a set of neglected gnashers! Megan, Cheshire

Food, Alcohol, Smoking, Sports Injuries, Toothache, Old Age! We are now at a point where basically the NHS and Health professionals are only willing to treat Young, Thin, Teetotal, non-Smoking patients who regularly exercise (providing there is no risk attached to the sport) and can afford to spend a fortune privately on their teeth. Have they actually thought about this? Treating unhealthy people is what keeps them all in highly paid jobs. I never thought I would say it but if I could opt out of NI contributions, go private and not pay these people I would. Karen, South Yorkshire

I totally agree. People should first look after their health including oral by themselves, if after that if something goes wrong state can help with treatment. Brushing teeth regularly and visiting the Dentist as suggested by the Dentist is a must. Anon, Walsall

The first priority should be to get us access to a National Health Dentist rather than the private service we are forced to use, a service that has little interest in preventative dentistry. Dave, Northamptonshire

If the government truly want to improve the dental health of the nation, then they should abolish the charges for dental check-ups. Despite supposedly being part of the NHS, dental treatment is an unaffordable luxury for many, and they will only seek help and advice when the situation reaches the point of crippling pain, by which time the amount of work needed will have increased, at greater cost to the tax-payer. James Phillips, Nottingham

Teeth start healthy is not necessarily true. Tooth formation begins in the womb and completes in early childhood and a person's teeth can be messed up by elements utterly beyond their control. I have also found that with children who have generally similar diets and habits (except that one was dedicated to tooth care and the other rather less so) it was the careless one who was "rewarded" with healthy teeth. My teeth are awful but my hygiene is fine, my gums are ok and I've never suffered an abscess or anything but my teeth just die. Janine, St Albans

This kind of policy would be all well and good if health care were entirely black-and-white.Unfortunately in reality things are more complicated. Nobody deliberately neglects their teeth to the point of disease. Patients presenting with serious oral problems may well have a range of other conditions or may have ended up in the situation they are in due to a failure to properly diagnose and support other conditions. This is the case for me; I have a connective tissue disorder (linked to autism; also undiagnosed until I paid for a private referral to a specialist that the NHS refused to fund) which had led to early-onset periodontitis and the destruction of much of the bone in my jaw. Who should pay for my treatment? Me? Or the care providers who failed to spot the underlying conditions for nearly 30 years? I'm certainly the one receiving the invoices. Bryn, Farnham

What is this 'NHS dental service'? In our area it appears to be a mythological concept with dentists only providing a private patient service. We each have a contract where we pay about £170 per year for two checkups and two hygienist visits. Any further treatment is at private rates. As a retired couple we would like access to NHS facilities. Also we both suffer from the results of the NHS dentistry practices of years ago when fillings were done because a slight mark on the teeth may be decay. This old dentistry work requires ongoing maintenance, repair or replacement. We have paid into the NHS system via our NI contributions throughout our working lives but are now unable to use those facilities despite regular checkups and treatment. The current difficulty of accessing NHS dentistry in (at least) some areas precludes many from being able to afford even basic care and treatment. Only when a universal NHS treatment facility is available at reasonable cost should any restrictions be considered, and then rejected. The current proposal smacks of looking for a reason to cut back even further on spending. Jeff, Chichester

"Patients who consume sugary diets and do not look after their teeth, should not get expensive dental treatments on the NHS". For most of us the NHS is neither a charity nor a right, nor is it a favour from a benevolent government. It is something for which we have paid, usually in advance, or for which someone has paid on our behalf. It may be fair to limit cosmetic treatments, but anything that discourages people from visiting the dentist is likely to lead to bigger - and more expensive - treatments further down the line. Malcolm, Dorset

I find the statement made by Professor Jimmy Steele appalling. He, undoubtly has a very healthy set of teeth which his income support very well. I, along with the majority of the population find it hard enough just to find an NHS dentist that will be able to take me onto their books. The quality of the treatment is ok, but should you have teeth that are of poor quality, as are mine, then no matter how much budget controlled NHS treatment you recieve then dental problems will continue. My teeth have been very badly treated over the years by the NHS and as such are now of such a poor standard no matter how much tooth paste, mouthwash or floss is used they are now as good as useless, those that are left. The fear of "what are they going to do to me now" and the extortionate cost makes me leave things to the last minute before seeking any treatment. Mark Wukovich, Hampshire

I had my teeth filled as a child despite the fact there was nothing wrong with them. Apparently, at the time the consensus was filling teeth made them stronger. I'm cynical and realise that fillings only last 10 years and then need replacing so there is a generation of people out there who need to have fillings. Seems like a good way of ensuring customers in the future after the disolution of NHS dentistry. I really object to having to pay for work on fillings I didn't need in the first place. Elle, Plymouth

Dentistry is currently in an anomalous position in the NHS. It has been the one most open to market forces and "choice" provided by the private sector. It also has some of the most expensive and uneven service provision and coverage in the NHS, with costs and treatments largely determined by dentists for the benefit of dentists, with conversations like "You can have silver fillings in 3 months time on the NHS or white ones today if you go private". That is "choice" only in the barest sense of the word. I foresee a lot more of these "why should my taxes pay for X for someone who does not deserve it" arguments as NHS reforms, restructuring, top-ups and paid-for "extras" begin to bite. Paul McGlade, London

This might appear to be fair and sensible, and perhaps it would be if we were all given the same set of teeth. Unfortunately that's not the case, so while some can get away with a short daily scrub, others suffer badly with decay, gum disease and other problems, and must maintain scrupulous control over their oral hygiene to avoid tooth loss. Factors which contribute to dental problems, such as depression, illness, and certain medications, can mean that what seems like a simple idea could become horrendously complicated to administrate and arbitrate on, with people denied treatment for problems beyond their control, and those who are prone to problems when they slack off, even for a moment, made to suffer or pay. MFW, Reigate