Health

Dentists set to reopen TODAY – but only a third will see patients face to face

DENTISTS up and down the country are set to reopen today for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic closed surgeries.

Experts have however said that only a third will be able to see patients face to face, while others are still lacking the correct level of personal protective equipment (PPE) to undertake many procedures.

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Dentists have reopened today but at limited capacity

The British Dental Association (BDA) has warned that many patients will not be able to receive treatments that involve the use of a drill due to a shortage of PPE.

Under the coronavirus lockdown measures, dental practices were closed with many patients being forced to deal with agonising pain at home.

Practices can now reopen as long as they adhere to a range of regulations that have been put in place, including social distancing measures and the use of face masks.

The BDA has produced a tool kit to help dentists get back to normal and to assist in undertaking face to face appointments.

The above graphic shows what surgeries will now look like

The group has also issued an open letter to health secretary Matt Hancock for urgent support with PPE and to grant dentists key worker status.

Data from 2,053 surgeries found that just 36 per cent would be able to resume appointments with three quarters saying a lack of PPE would mean they could not perform "aerosol generating procedures".

Chairperson of the BDA Mick Armstrong said practices will struggle to meet demand.

“Dentists returning to work still lack the support offered to our neighbours on the high street, and even clarity on key worker status when it comes to childcare.

“Ministers must change tack if dentistry is going to survive the new normal.”

In order for surgeries to be able to open and to treat patients, dental teams must wear full face shields as well as a surgical face mask to protect them from the virus.

Dental practitioners may also wear goggles or a visor.

Under the new regulations, dentists will only be able to see a handful of patients a day as surgeries will be restricted as to the amount of people they will be able to let in each day.

There are around 10,000 practices in England and across them they would usually carry out 3.25 million appointments a month before the pandemic rocked the country.

Many practices have been hit with financial difficulties due to the closures and the BDA has now demanded "urgent action" from the government.

This morning Mr Armstrong said: “The Health Secretary must now take responsibility to avert the existential crisis facing a service struggling with sky-high costs and radically reduced patient numbers.

"Without action from this Government access problems – on an unprecedented scale – are going to be visited on millions of patients, in every part of England.”

He added that just 8 per cent of practices have said they can maintain financial stability in the long term.

"We need the conversation to be realistic about how an NHS service, forced to operate to a contract based on activity, can operate in a context where previous levels of activity are impossible.

"There has been no clear message to patients and the profession about what reopening actually means in the light of what will inevitably be a vastly reduced service with minimal options to even maintain oral health, let alone improve it", he added.

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