2006 was very significant in UK dentistry, as the Government released a new NHS contract. Those dentists who were dissatisfied with the terms of the new contract saw it as the perfect opportunity to take the leap from NHS to private dentistry. As a result there are many more private practices now then there were a decade ago. These changes coincided with a massive increase in awareness and also demand for private cosmetic dentistry driven by makeover TV shows such as ‘Ten Years Younger’.

These major changes, coupled with greater public awareness, have brought many positives to dentistry.

Cosmetic dentistry has a high profile image in today’s dental world; however oral health remains the absolute priority for dentists across the UK. A healthy mouth gives you the confidence to interact with friends, family and colleagues without worrying about things like bad breath or discoloured teeth. The most exciting area deals with the inter-relationship between oral disease and the patient’s systemic health. Current research would seem to indicate that many of the bacteria found in oral infections may, in some way, contribute to systemic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, pulmonary disease, low birth-weight infants and premature birth, osteoporosis, diabetes, and several other chronic degenerative diseases. If these linkages are defined, the scope of dental practice will change dramatically and the relationship between oral and systemic disease will require more professional care on the part of the dentist, rather than less.

The relationship between dentists and patients is also changing. There is now a growing acceptance and understanding that patients need to be educated and informed about the best options open to them. This means dentists and hygienists are now spending longer listening to patients, understanding their concerns and then offering treatment options to suit each individual patient. Patients are also taking time to find out more by researching health websites and magazine articles.

More and more people are waking up to the fact that having a great looking, health smile is something that impacts positively on their whole personality and approach to life. Dentistry is now moving to the top of people’s wish lists of things they would like to do for themselves. Significant number of people in their 40s, 50s and even older, are opting to invest in their health and smile.

There was a time, when a visit to the dentist was akin to entering a torture chamber… but not anymore. Not only are the environments more friendly and welcoming, dentists not have a range of products and approaches that help reduce fear and anxiety in most patients. Hence there is really nothing to fear.

Perhaps the most significant change in UK dentistry has been the meteoric rise of cosmetic dentistry. It seems that the population has finally woken up to the fact that having straight, white teeth is achievable and is a fundamental part of your overall image. High profile celebrities such as Kate Middleton and Cheryl Cole have both had smile makeovers in recent years. These makeovers are becoming hugely popular, made easier by the fact that much of the work can now be carried out without many friends and family ever noticing, through the introduction of invisible braces and other technological advances.

Tooth whitening is also becoming more and more popular as a simple and easy procedure that can deliver great results when carried out under the supervision of a dental professional.

Dentists are now offering a much wider range of services than simply looking after your teeth and gums. These may include snoring remedies, help with migraines, help with quitting smoking and even beauty treatments such as semi-permanent make up and Botox®.

As dentistry enters the mainstream, it has had to wake up to the fact that it’s now deemed as a service provider and, as a result is judged by patients not only by the quality of treatment but also by the whole customer experience. As consumers, patients expect high standards and great service every time. This has led to a customer service revolution in dentistry. Dentists are now paying much more attention to serving patients and investing heavily in practices that are great places to visit, with comfortable waiting areas, easy parking, treatment coordination rooms and a warm and friendly welcome. A large proportion of time is now spent on training all staff to offer a high level of service that is centred on the patient.

Finally, dental practices are moving into the 21st century and joining the social media revolution. Dentists are now engaging with existing patients and also recruiting new patients with platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. You can now interact directly with your dentist and they can provide helpful advice and communication – this is the cornerstone of relationship building.

So there you have it. It’s an exciting time for dentistry, which can only mean good news for the patient. So, take time to chat with your dentist and their team to find out just how they can help you achieve oral health and the look you’ve always wished for.