The current landscape
Over the years, NHS reforms have influenced significant change within community dentistry in terms of commissioning and contracts, as well as the position of community dental services within trusts. The formation of the 2011 initiative to allow social enterprises to provide health and social care services was a huge turning point, as it has made way for companies to deliver NHS contracts whilst remaining independent of any NHS bodies.
For people with additional needs due to wider issues such as learning or physical difficulties, mental health, homelessness, socio-economic status or severe anxiety, this has made a world of difference. Indeed, all of the above examples face barriers in accessing high-street dental practices; but in community dental services where there are specialist facilities, equipment and skills, professionals can ensure that patients receive the necessary treatment safely and efficiently. For that reason alone, community dentistry and additional needs patients should be a priority for commissioning services moving forward, taking care to ensure that all individual needs – whatever the issues – are fulfilled across the board.