Coronavirus Guidance

Advice for patients :

Routine dentistry during COVID-19 requires the correct social distancing measures and personal protective equipment to be in place.

The experience of going to a dentist might be different now, but they remain safe places to be.

Patients still need to be patient because many practices are still catching up from when they were closed during the first national lockdown and those delivering NHS care, in particular, may have a backlog.

For our practices, our priorities are likely to be:

Patients needing urgent care.

Patients at higher risk of oral disease and Patients with outstanding treatment needs.

The reason for the long waits is not just because of the backlog, but also because there’s a lot more disinfection of surgeries required after each treatment. Depending on the nation, sometimes they have to wait for anything up to an hour before they can have another patient in the chair.

What's happening in dentistry now:

As restrictions are lifting and freedoms are returning, in dental practices, things are still quite different and will remain so for quite some time. We are working under current national dental guidelines and await further updates from the government.

Reduced capacity

Our team is working their normal contracted hours but due to government guidelines, we typically can only accommodate about 50% of previous attendance.

Enhanced disinfection protocols, the time taken to put on and take off PPE, the time taken to clear the air after a water-based dental treatment and social distancing means that, although we are open our usual hours and we are working harder than ever, we can accommodate fewer patients than before.For your safety and the safety of our teams, dental restrictions will remain in place for some time to come

 The waiting list

This means we have to prioritise patients in relation to their dental needs. Patients in pain remain our top priority and as all appointments must be carefully pre-planned, our dentists also take time to speak with patients on the telephone to assess their needs before they attend. We also accommodate unregistered patients who can no longer access walk-in clinics in hospitals.

We are working through canceled or postponed treatments, dealing with emergencies, caring for unregistered patients and providing on-call every weekend and bank holiday. With stringent operating guidelines limiting our capacity, it can be difficult to accommodate routine check-ups, but if you are in pain or you are worried about your mouth, we are here for you.

 How we've changed

As a practice, we have invested considerable finances to increase patient capacity to help deliver the service we did pre-Covid. We have cored out 9-inch holes in our walls and installed upgraded ventilation systems to increase the number of room air exchanges to increase the frequency of our appointment times within the current restrictions.

Government support

As we struggle with providing care to patients we do so with financial insecurity, the private income stream to our practice has received no grants from the local government to offset the lost income. The Department of Health NI has provided much-needed support to prop up the NHS component of the dental practice, this has been an extremely welcomed lifeline to dental practices. We would however ask that DoH commits to providing ongoing support at least until the end of this financial year and starts to develop plans or a new dental contract to rebuild dental services into 2022.

Finally, it must be acknowledged that, like ourselves, most dental practices and teams are doing an amazing job in an exceedingly difficult situation, we are aware of so many examples of teams going the extra mile at present, it's easy to forget the extent of the problems we are dealing with when the teams are doing so very well and delivering dental care.

NHS and private care

Some patients might find that a treatment is available quicker privately than it is on the NHS. As with medical care, this is often because the queue for NHS treatment is longer. It may simply be that there are many more people looking for NHS appointments than private appointments. Many practices will provide a mix of NHS and private care. But those practices will have a limit to the amount of NHS care they are able to provide.

Calling the practice

Please make sure you keep your appointment if you have one; it’s going to be safe and it’s important we don’t waste limited resources. If you can’t make an appointment, your practice may be able to offer it to someone else who needs it. Unfortunately due to limited NHS appointments failure to attend 2 appointments may mean you can be deregistered from NHS dental services at our practice.

If you’re looking for care, you may receive initial remote advice via phone or video call. This may lead to advice being given or the arrangement of an appointment if the dentist deems it necessary. Some routine care like a check-up might be delayed, potentially until next year, unfortunately.

Please be assured that dentists are working within the current guidelines issued by governments and are doing their best to help patients wherever possible.

Receptionists are also doing their best to ensure that priority cases are treated as soon as possible. Please treat all the staff with respect. We know it can be stressful, but they are doing their best to help.

Please check in with your own practice or if you haven’t regularly sought care:

Phone NHS 111 if you live in England, Northern Ireland or Wales

Phone NHS 24 if you live in Scotland

What are dental appointments like?

Practices are using personal protective equipment such as masks, gloves, and aprons and social distancing measures to keep staff and patients safe.

If you call to make an appointment, you will be asked some screening questions. You’ll be asked those same questions again at your appointment to see if anything has changed since you booked

You will probably be asked to use hand sanitiser or to wash your hands when you arrive (and again before you leave)

You might also be asked to wear a mask in the waiting rooms if you can

You will also find that waiting rooms might look a little different with two metre markers in place

You will also notice that the dental team may be wearing different protective equipment to what you are used to seeing – this will be to increase your protection

Appointments will be managed to allow for social distancing between patients. That might mean that you’re offered fewer options for scheduling your appointment.

How you can help:

Please do not arrive without an appointment

With the exception of children and persons in need, patients should come alone

Patients should attend wearing a mask if possible or be prepared to wear one. A distance of at least two metres must be observed if another patient is present in the dental practice

If you arrive early to the practice, you may be asked to you wait outside the practice until your appointment time.

Staff will not shake your hand

If you show covid 19 symptoms following appointment booking, you should contact NHS Test and Trace

If asked to send in photographs of your children’s teeth, first watch this helpful video on how to photograph children's teeth

It is likely to be some time before dental services can return to what you previously experienced as normal.

However, your dental teams will be doing all they can to ensure you receive the treatment you require in the safest way.