What is the current situation?
It's been 6 weeks since dentists have "downed drills" and stopped carrying out all routine treatment after following guidelines from our regulatory bodies. Countless appointments have been cancelled and added to our call back list which is growing by the day.
Currently dental clinics in England are only assessing patients over the phone or via video call in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Urgent Dental Centres (UDCs) have opened around the country for patients to receive emergency dental care, although some areas currently have better access to these services than others. Treatments provided at the UDCs are still limited mainly to dental extractions and temporary dressings.
Contact our clinic on 0161 327 2878 if you or someone you know is experiencing a dental emergency such as:
Large facial swelling
Severe toothache not controlled with painkillers
Dental infection not responding to antibiotics
Difficulty with swallowing or breathing
Uncontrolled bleeding following a dental extraction or dental trauma / injury
We will give you advice, recommend painkillers or where appropriate prescribe antibiotics, and refer to the UDC for emergency treatment.
If this is out of hours or you are not registered with a dentist, please call the Greater Manchester Urgent Dental Care Service 0333 332 3800
What is the current government guidance?
Following the Prime Minister's address last night, with the active encouragement of "those who cannot work from home to return to work", some patients, and indeed some dentists, were hopeful that dentists would be able to see and treat their patients again. However dentists are one of the professions where it is impossible to maintain social distancing. There are also concerns about the level of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) required to be able to treat patients safely, and more importantly the availability of such PPE.
The UK Government's COVID-19 recovery strategy makes no specific mention of the dental industry, but states that "personal care establishments where close contact is inherent (like beauty salons) may only be fully possible significantly later depending on the reduction in numbers of infections". This suggests that dentists who work in such close contact with patients and other team members, may not be able to open as normal until the later phases.
Regardless, dentists must also follow guidance from our regulatory bodies and the Chief Dental Officer of England who has today stated "the temporary cessation of routine dentistry addresses the safety of patients and of dental teams as well as supporting the public health measures required to slow community transmission of COVID-19".
What is the future for dentistry?
We still don't know what dentistry will be like once we are able to see patients face to face; how many patients we will be able to see, what patient groups we will be able to see, what procedures we will be able to carry out, what PPE or additional equipment will be required and available... and the list goes on. There are so many unknowns which is causing a lot of distress for patients who are having dental issues, who don't know when they will be able to get dental treatment again. There are many patients who may not have severe enough symptoms to be referred to the Urgent Dental Centres, but their dental issues may well be affecting their normal activities such as eating, drinking or even smiling.
Even those patients who do have a severe toothache are only being offered temporary dressings or extractions. Some minor dental issues that, under normal circumstances could be treated, are now being forced to develop into a more complex or severe problem before being seen. Teeth that may previously have been saved are now being taken out. This may have long term consequences for the dental health of our patients.
If you currently have toothache or a dental problem, you may find this series of videos I made helpful.
Although this may feel like it is too late for some patients if you are already experiencing problems, the most important thing that you can do for your dental health now and for your future self, is to prevent dental issues from arising in the first place. The most common causes of dental pain are dental decay and gum disease, and both these conditions are largely preventable. Very early dental decay and gum disease can even be reversed by good tooth-brushing habits, limiting sugar intake and stopping smoking. You can read my 8 tips to maintain dental hygiene during the lockdown here.
Regular dental examinations and hygiene appointments would normally help prevent dental issues and identify early problems. If you don't have a dentist, and would like join our practice when we re-open, you can register in advance here and we will contact you for an appointment as soon as we are able to open.
For now, we wait patiently for more guidance, and hope that everyone stays safe and well.