Dentists are failing to provide patients with information that could help them choose the right treatment plan or dentist, a new study has found.
Around 500,000 patients could be paying unnecessarily for private dental treatment every year because dentists fail to tell patients that they have the right to receive certain treatments on the NHS.
The study – published today by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) – also raises concerns over current NHS dental contracts in England, which it claims restricts patient choice.
Complex complaints process
The report also identified the complexity of the complaints process as a concern and said a simpler and less time-consuming process is needed.
In addition, it raised the issue of restrictions preventing patients from accessing other dental professionals, such as dental hygienists. This is likely to reduce patient choice and dampen competition, the OFT said.
Potential pressure selling by dentists of dental payment plans is another area that needs to be addressed, the report concluded.
Which? welcomes the findings
Which? contributed to the OFT study and welcomes the findings, as they echo results of previous Which? research.
A Which? investigation in 2010 found that patients lacked comparable information on private dental prices and that prices were rarely on display in private dental surgeries.
A further Which? investigation in 2011 found that some dentists failed to carry out basic examinations, spent limited time with patients and provided inappropriate treatment plans.
Key recommendations for dentists
Following the findings, the OFT has made five key recommendations:
- Provision of clear, accurate and timely information for patients
- Direct patient access to dental care professionals
- Reform of the NHS dental contract in England
- Simplification for the complaints process
- A code of practice for the sale of dental plans
- Find a local dentist with our help
- Join the dentistry debate on Which? Conversation
- The Which? dentistry campaign – achieving positive change