Dental practices are permitted to open in England next week – but the trade union for dentists has warned that most won’t be ready to return.
A recent study has revealed that just one third of dentists will welcome back patients on Monday 8 June.
Finding ways to successfully implement social distancing in surgeries is proving challenging, whilst many lack the extra protective equipment required to perform work safely. Many dentists are also facing severe cashflow problems.
“Anyone expecting dentistry to magically return on Monday will find only a skeleton service,” says BDA chair Mick Armstrong.
“Those practices reopening now face fewer patients and higher costs and will struggle to meet demand.”
Dentistry is among the riskiest professions for the transmission of coronavirus due to the close proximity of dentists and patients.
Many surgeries closed at the onset of the outbreak – with emergency treatment performed in specialist hubs.
Upon reopening, measures such as physical screens in reception areas, socially-distanced waiting rooms and regular staff testing will need to be implemented in practices.
However, it could take surgeries several weeks to get up to speed and ensure they are operating in accordance with COVID-19 regulations.
Patients are also being warned to expect longer waits for some time, as deep cleans will have to be performed between each patient treatment.
The BDA has released a toolkit designed to help dentists during face-to-face care, and the NHS has published a guidance report on transitioning from a cautious reopening with limited services to resuming full-scale treatment.
“During the initial resumption of dental services, the baseline expectation is for practice based urgent dental care (UDC) provision, with flexibility for practices to do what is best for their patients,” states the document.
“The subsequent pace of progression towards the resumption of the full range of routine dental care, including aerosol generating procedures (AGP), will need to be risk-managed by the individual practice and will be subject to following the necessary IPC and PPE requirements.”