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Illume’s reaction to the BBC’s The Truth About Your Teeth

Last night’s BBC One programme promised to reveal ‘The Truth About Your Teeth’ and whilst, as expected, the show mainly focussed on extreme cases of dental neglect, it did serve to highlight the life transforming potential of effective treatment.

Illume practice owner, dentist Tim Rumney, watched the programme with interest and made the following comments:

My overall impression was that the show provided quite a sensationalist and simplistic overview of the state of the UK population’s teeth. The coverage of each treatment was rather shallow and didn’t provide any insight into what goes on behind the scenes in terms of planning and preparation to explain the costs involved in some of these treatments – particularly the lady who invested her life savings in dental implants.

However, what the show did convey was the positive impact that the decision to engage with dental professionals can have. All of the people that the show focussed on experienced a significant boost in self-confidence when their issues had been dealt with. We regularly see this at Illume and a number of our clients, including young professional Caroline Baker, have recently been filmed saying just that!

The show covered a number of treatments and services that we offer here at Illume – please read on to find out more and feel free to contact our team if you would like to discuss any of these issues in more detail.

Teeth whitening
There is no independent research available on the effectiveness of over-the-counter teeth whitening treatments. With the help of some willing volunteers the show tested various products and the outcome was the same for all of them – the maximum difference measured was just 0.5 shades of whiteness which isn’t even visible to the human eye. At best these treatments are ineffective and at worst could be damaging to teeth and gum tissues.

This is because EU regulations control the amount of chemicals used in these preparations. The professional tooth whitening service offered by dental practices such as Illume is far more effective because dentists are allowed to use stronger solutions. But it’s not only solution strength – a number of other factors should also be taken into consideration before teeth whitening takes place which is why it is now illegal for anyone other than a qualified dental professional to offer this service.

Are drills really soon to be a thing of the past?
Presenter Dr Chris Van Tulleken stated that dental drills may soon become a thing of the past due to Peptide Drops. This product is designed to help re-mineralise enamel, enabling it to re-grow therefore eliminating the need for drilling and filling.

This is not widely available yet and won’t rebuild entire teeth as implied but help to reverse early and small cavities. At Illume we sometimes recommend re-mineralising compounds which are rich in phosphate and calcium to help re-balance the surface of the tooth and therefore hopefully avoid the need for a filling, but this relies on early identification of a possible cavity as well as a willing client. This is not a chairside treatment – the compound must be used every day as part of the client’s regular oral healthcare routine.

Unfortunately there is no ‘magic wand’ to treat decay.

Prevention is key
From our perspective as dental professionals, the key message from last night’s programme is that prevention is far better than cure.

The majority of dental decay is entirely preventable and the examples shown in the programme are at the extreme end of the decay scale.

As the presenter stated, brushing for two minutes, twice a day with a manual or electric toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste, is key. However, the programme didn’t highlight the importance of cleaning between teeth to ensure all traces of disease causing bacteria are removed, vital for preventing both decay and gum disease.

Diet and lifestyle were also touched upon, but changing attitudes through education plays an important part in prevention. We like to assume that everyone knows the importance of brushing twice a day, but perhaps that message is not getting through as well as dental professionals would like.

UK dental care
The UK benefits from some of the best dentistry in the World. From basic entry level care provided by the NHS, to the most sophisticated treatments - there is a huge variety of support available, but it does rely on patient engagement.

At Illume, we don’t see cases such as those highlighted last night among our regular clients; they have already made the decision to look after their teeth visiting us regularly for a Healthy Mouth Review. The programme stated that even just an annual visit to the dentist can reduce the chances of tooth decay by up to 60% - couple this with a robust oral healthcare routine at home and regular Hygiene Support Visits, and this is the most effective way of preventing more serious dental issues.

However, we do see New Clients with complex dental challenges and have a broad skill base amongst our experienced clinicians to provide excellent outcomes for these clients.  The implication that all British people have poor teeth is wrong. Some do, but many are prepared to invest in high quality dentistry comparable with the best anywhere in the World. As a private practice, cost can sometimes be seen as a barrier to treatment. From our professional perspective, investing in a quality service makes an enormous difference to our clients’ lives. And for more complex treatments, there are finance options available to make them affordable to more people.

Significant advances in technology, coupled with strict cross-infection control measures mean dental treatment at high quality practices like Illume is extremely safe, effective and pain-free.

Next week
Part one of The Truth About Your Teeth can be viewed on the BBC iPlayer until 4th July – we’ll be watching next week’s episode with interest to see if they cover other vital areas of dental care such as the impact of gum disease and related health conditions.

We’ll let you know what we think next week!