Advice for patients :
Routine dentistry during Coronavirus required 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 due to the coronavirus 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 Coronavirus updates from the government.
Our team is working their normal contracted hours but due to government guidelines, we typically can only accommodate about 50% of previous attendance. This situation is improving nationwide and at our group but very slowly.
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 meant that, although we are open our usual hours and we are working harder than ever, we can accommodate fewer patients than before.
The waiting list
This means we have to prioritize 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 cancelled 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, if you are in pain or you are worried about your mouth, we are always here to help 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 guidelines.
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 During Coronavirus
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.
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 may use personal protective equipment such as masks, gloves, and aprons and social distancing measures to keep staff and patients safe now or in future.
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 sanitizer 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 notice that the dental team may on occasion be wearing different protective equipment to what you are used to seeing – this will be to increase your protection
How you can help:
This section will only be useful in the event of another coronavirus outbreak or if you are covid positive. Not all of the advice will be applicable depending on government legislation and guidance from the Chief Dental Officer of England and Wales
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 meters 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 Coronavirus 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.