Getting the problem of antibiotic resistance in dentistry taken seriously has been a long journey. Although antibiotic prescribing in dentistry is small compared to some other healthcare sectors, we are still prescribing around 3 million courses of antibiotics every year on the NHS in England.
We have seen a gradual reduction in our prescribing rates over the last few years: we dispensed around a quarter fewer prescriptions of antibiotics in 2017 compared to 2013, something we highlighted to MPs and other stakeholders earlier in May, and we were happy to see both a Shadow Health Minister and a former Secretary of State for Health at that event, a sign that this issue is finally getting taken seriously for dentistry.
So I was delighted also to be asked to speak at an event held by Public Health England in May, to celebrate the success of our collaborative work, which has helped to drive down the rates of antibiotic prescribing in dentistry over the last few years.
A group called the Dental ESPAUR (English Surveillance Programme for Antibiotic Usage and Resistance) sub-group was brought together, including the PHE, the BDA, the FGDP, the Office of the Chief Dental Officer and other expert groups, to monitor and reduce the usage of antibiotics for dental treatment and help combat the growing threat of antibiotic resistance.
One of the key products of this coalition, to which the BDA was delighted to contribute, has been a free dental AMS (antimicrobial stewardship) toolkit, including information for patients and a self-audit tool to help dentists in primary care monitor their own antibiotic prescribing and ensure it is in line with the FGDP's excellent guidance. This tool has recently been updated and we hope it will help colleagues build on their success in reducing prescriptions.
During my presentation at the celebration event, I outlined the BDA's role in progressing the dental AMR agenda. We've worked hard to get the role of dentistry in AMR recognised by the wider public health arena. In 2014, we convened a summit of experts, to discuss the issues facing AMR and dentistry and were pleased to get public health experts from a range of backgrounds together with dentists.
In the report we published following the summit, we identified some barriers to reducing dental antibiotic prescribing and developed an action plan to overcome them. For instance, we've been campaigning for appropriately-funded urgent care slots to be able to treat pain without resorting to antibiotic usage. It's a simple thing, but could make such a massive difference, to both patients as individuals, and to the global problem of antibiotic resistance.
It was heartening to hear Professor Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer and spearhead of UK and global work on AMR, praise the dental profession's efforts in her keynote address at this recent event.
We have come a long way; there is still more to be done, but it was great to see the efforts of everyone involved in this collaborative work being recognised, and we hope that it will continue.
Dr Susie Sanderson, Health and Science Committee
Task Force on Antibiotics in Dentistry, Council of European Dentists
BDA Immediate Past President
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