You thought you need to see a dentist in Perth, Scotland? Not any more.

By Phil / July 22nd, 2014


Gayle Fagan (left), Finalist at the UK Dental Hygienist & Therapist Awards


The General Dental Council (GDC) have removed the barrier to Direct Access for some dental care professionals after careful consideration on the impact this was having on patients. In the past every member of the dental team had to work on the prescription of a dentist. This meant that patients had to be seen by a dentist before being treated by any other member of the dental team.

Following a detailed review of evidence and a full discussion at a Council meeting on 28 March 2013, it was agreed this should change.

What is ‘direct access’?

‘Direct access’ means giving patients (you) the option to see a dental care professional (DCP) without having to first see a dentist.

Who can treat you direct?

Dental hygienists and dental therapists are now able to see you directly and carry out all treatments that they are trained and competent to do without you having to see a dentist first.

What treatment or services can a dental hygienist provide direct to you?

Dental hygienists will be able to carry out their full scope of practice i.e. all hygiene work, impressions the applications of fissure sealants and fluoride without needing a prescription from a dentist.

 What treatment or services can a dental therapist provide direct to you?

Dental therapists will be able to carry out their full scope of practice ie. the full scope of the hygienist, plus ALL fillings, primary tooth extractions and pulp treatments without needing a prescription from a dentist.

The practicalities

 Does direct access work in all settings?

Direct access will still work best in a team setting, partly because of other restrictions which are not imposed by the GDC, but also for more immediate practical arrangements for records, referrals and second opinions. A team setting allows you more routes of entry into treatment. That’s why here at Cherrybank Dental Spa this will have no baring on your regular maintenance Dental Health review appointments.

 Dentists train for five years – why would they want to do that if patients are going to go to see dental care professionals instead?

We will always need dentists and most patients will probably need to see a dentist at some stage. Dentists undertake extensive training in the full range of skills and can carry out complex work.

Direct access allows them to focus on this rather than on things like check-ups or routine fillings which then result in a referral to the dental hygienist or the therapist anyway.

There will always be things which only a dentist can do, as a result of their complex training and you will always see the dentist for these treatments.  You still also have a choice about which member of the dental team you will visit and many people will still want to see their dentist rather than a dental hygienist or dental therapist first, or at all.

However, every member of the dental team in Cherrybank Dental Spa are trained to the highest of standards within their scope.

Only dentists are trained to diagnose so how can dental care professionals see patients direct?

Dental care professionals (DCPs) are trained to a varying extent to identify abnormalities, undertake screening roles and give oral health advice. The DCP should identify any issues of concern and refer the patient to the dentist for a diagnosis if they feel it necessary or out-with their remit.

It is not a necessity to diagnose a patient before treatment but knowing when something is not right so that treatment should not commence. Hygienists and therapists practicing under direct access are not expected to make a diagnosis beyond their scope or practice.

How do you know which dental professional you can see direct?

It is unlikely that the majority of patients will know about the changes unless their practice (like us) inform them.

So in conclusion.

You can now see a hygienist directly without seeing a dentist first for all hygiene treatment and a dental therapist for all hygiene, all direct fillings and extraction of deciduous (baby) teeth and pulp therapy treatments.

Last updated January 26th, 2021