Is better training the answer to cutting wait times for dental surgery?

Click to play video: 'Dental debate' Dental debate
Watch Above: A recently retired Kelowna dentist weighs in on the province’s plan to cut dental surgery waits. – Mar 28, 2018

The province has plans to cut dental surgery wait times by offering hundreds of additional operations.

However, a recently retired Kelowna dentist believes more training could keep some patients off wait lists all together.

Last week, Health Minister Adrian Dix announced B.C.’s hospitals will perform 900 additional surgeries over the next year.

The announcement was aimed at helping vulnerable populations, including those with developmental disabilities, get faster access to dental surgery.

The province said here in the Interior Health region, more than 10 per cent of the time, patients are waiting more than six months for dental surgery.

“They are targeting the vulnerable population which is terrific,” recently retired pediatric dentist Dr. Alan Milnes said.

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“Their wait times have been probably excessive”

Milnes would like to see general dentists trained to handle vulnerable patients, including adults with special needs, more effectively in their offices.

“Tooth decay and dental disease is, by and large, a preventative disease. If dentists were trained to manage behaviour and manage some of the medical issues around dental treatment, especially with the adult population, then a lot of this hospital treatment probably wouldn’t be necessary,” Milnes said.

The long-time Kelowna dentist feels training would provide a more long-term fix.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said he is open to improving training for BC dentists but maintains that adding additional surgeries was also an important step.

“I don’t think anyone who works…with adults and children with disabilities would look at what is going on and say we didn’t need to add surgeries,” Dix said.

“Just because you helped address one problem doesn’t mean you’ve solved all the problems…this is a major response to one problem.”

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