A new ITV documentary, The Dentists, is going behind the scenes at the University Dental Hospital of Manchester. The programme tells the extraordinary stories of some of the 90,000 people who visit the hospital every year.
Every week, The Dentists deal with a wide range of oral health problems. Some are dental emergencies such as a broken tooth. While other patients need advanced facial reconstruction plastic surgery.
One of the most devastating problems The Dentists face is tooth decay, often caused by sugary foods and drinks. Over 90% of British adults suffer from decayed or missing teeth. And children in the north-west have the worst teeth in England.
The programme follows newly qualified, Kirsty Woodmason as she carries out her first multiple-extractions of the day. After removing 9 teeth from a young patient, Kirsty says: “If I was a parent, I don’t think I’d like to admit that the reason my child was going under general anaesthetic to have teeth taken out is the foods and the drinks I’d been giving them.”
Kirsty confesses her own fears about visiting the dentist, saying: “I myself am absolutely terrified when I go to the dentist. I sit in the waiting room with my fists clenched, sweating.”
For University Dental Hospital, fighting this fear – labelled dentophobia – is a priority. Oral surgeon, Erik Andreson, has spent years finding ways to reassure nervous patients.
Erik says: “Back when I was training, the emphasis was far more on the practical nature of what we do. But as you go on through your professional career, you pick up the best psychological tricks. I envy Derren Brown.”
He continues: “If people say to me they don’t like injections, I’m very honest with them, neither do I. I’m very biblical when it comes to injections. It’s better to give than to receive.”
The programme meets Danielle, a 25 year-old patient whose fear of the dentist means a lifetime of neglected teeth. Danielle undergoes sedation so the dentist can extract her bad teeth. Whilst she regrets now having dentures on her wedding day, Danielle says: “When we do get married, I want dentures in. I want to be able to smile and have teeth.”
A year ago, patient James had some devastating news. He says: “When you’re told you need your nose removed because you have a pretty aggressive cancer, and it’s a life-saving operation, would you say no?”
The programme follows James as he undergoes the latest of a series of operations to reconstruct his face and give him back his front teeth.
His dentist, Craig, graduated at just 21. He now specialises in restoring faces that have been damaged by cancer. Craig says: “I have the best job in the world, because I have the great chance of doing things that make a vast difference to people.”
The Dentists, ITV, Monday 16 June, 9pm.
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