Dr Michael Sultan asks “finance or phobia”?

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EndoCare’s Michael Sultan asks why patients don’t attend the dental surgery; is it finance, or phobia?

In July 2017, Optometry Today described how surgeons, about to perform a scheduled cataract operation, discovered an incredible 27 contact lenses in one of the patient’s eyes. Seventeen of these lenses had fused together in what was termed a ‘blueish mass’, with 10 more lenses found individually.

The 67-year-old patient had been wearing monthly disposable contact lenses for the previous 35 years, without realising that any of them had gone missing. She attributed any irritation she felt to her age or dry eye syndrome. In truth, the bacterial build-up around the lenses had increased the risk of endophthalmitis, an inflammatory condition that held the possibility of severe damage to her eye, including blindness and even the loss of the affected eye.

The most striking part of this case was in the fact that the patient in question had not been attending regular appointments with an optometrist, who would have quickly spotted the problem.

This woman's plight highlights the importance of keeping regular healthcare appointments – and it is a story that could very easily have come from the dental sector. For example, just recently there were reports about a woman who had resorted to using superglue to affix her teeth, and a man who hadn’t brushed his teeth for some 20 years.

In dentistry, the most common reason for this type of behaviour is dental phobia. We are all aware of this issue that dental phobia affects many people in the UK and, ultimately, we, as dentists, are probably the source of many of the original problems.. We need to ensure that our patients are treated in a way that does not leave them too scared to come back, and assure them we will do everything we can to rectify any issues as soon as possible.

The second most likely reason for non-attendance is accessibility and cost. Unfortunately, there is very little we can do to change this – at least individually. The barriers to NHS dental care can only truly be solved by the Government, and it is our responsibility to put pressure on them to do so. As a profession, we need to work together to discuss these problems with the relevant regulatory bodies in order to enact change – and we need to do so on behalf of our patients. Without our input, more and more patients may be put off from attending our practices, to the detriment of their health and wellbeing.

It is vital that we make the effort to encourage better attendance from all patients, and to discover why they might not want to come into the practice to begin with.


EndoCare, led by Dr Michael Sultan, is one of the UK’s most trusted specialist endodontic practices. His highly-trained team offers exceptional standards of care – and always puts the patient first.