Routine dental treatments have been put on hold since 23 March, the day that the the UK went into lockdown to help curb the spread of coronavirus. In England, dentists were allowed to reopen from 8 June if they put in place appropriate safety measures. However, a survey found only a third of dental surgeries felt ready to open, citing a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) as the biggest concern.
Here is everything you need to know about when dentists will reopen in the UK.
When will dentists reopen in the UK?
Dental practises in England were allowed to reopen from 8 June. However, according to a survey of more than 2,000 surgeries by the BDA, only 36 per cent felt ready to open by that date due to a lack of PPE available.
Patients with dental emergencies who cannot use their usual dental surgery should call NHS 111 and they will be directed to an urgent dental care centre if required.
Dental services are expected to resume in Scotland in late June. A date fore reopening is set to be confirmed after the Scottish Government's next three-weekly review of lockdown restrictions on 18 June.
A three-phase return for dental services is underway in Northern Ireland. Practices were allowed to return to face-to-face urgent care from 8 June. However, dentists will not be allowed to offer non-urgent care until phase two. No date has yet been set for when the second phase will begin.
The return of dental services in Wales will be gradual. From 1 July, dentists will be allowed to offer more treatments in practice and the criteria for urgent care will be relaxed. However, routine dental appointments are not expected to resume until October.
How will going to the dentist change?
While dental surgeries were allowed to reopen in England from 8 June, it is far from 'business as usual' for dentistry. More than 60 per cent of dental practices estimate they will be able to treat less than a quarter of the patient numbers they saw pre-COVID-19, and barely 15% feel they are in a position to offer a full range of treatment.
From 15 June, guidance from NHS England stated that dental practices are required to ensure that staff wear a surgical mask when not in PPE to reduce transmission risks.
BDA chairman Mik Armstrong described the current state of dentistry as a 'skeleton service'. 'Those practices reopening now face fewer patients and higher costs and will struggle to meet demand,' Mr Armstrong said.
What will dental appointments look like?
The NHS has outlined measures for dentists to consider before reopening:
• Limiting use of waiting areas
• Establishing single entry and exit points for patients
• Making sure hand sanitiser is available for use
• Waiting room chairs to be spaced 2m apart
• Screening staff on a daily basis
• Installing physical barriers
How can I make a dentist appointment?
Appointments will be scheduled over the phone or online only. If you call to make an appointment, you will be asked some screening questions. You will be asked the same questions again at your appointment.
However, because practices will manage appointments to allow for social distancing between patients, there may be fewer options for scheduling your appointment.
How to look after your teeth at home
However, just because you are social distancing from your dentist does not mean your oral health needs to suffer. We spoke to leading London dentist Dr Richard Marques about how to look after your teeth and oral health during the coronavirus lockdown.
The best thing you can do to avoid needing to see a dentist, is to maintain a good oral health routine. Here are some general tips:
• Brush twice daily for two to three minutes in the morning and evening. Any more and you can wear the teeth away, any less the teeth and gums may suffer.
• Don’t forget to floss. Make sure you’re cleaning between the teeth at least once a day with dental floss, interdental brushes or an electric air or water flosser.
• Rinse your mouth with an alcohol-free mouthwash to kill bacteria your toothbrush might miss. Use after brushing and whenever you need a quick freshen up.
• Chew on some sugar-free gum for quick-fix to freshen breath, just be careful not to use this in place of brushing or rinsing as it won’t eliminate odour causing bacteria.
• Don’t forget about your tongue. Use your toothbrush or a tongue scraper daily to remove bacteria and food residue left behind, keeping your mouth clean and your breath fresh.
• Take Co Enzyme Q10, a vital molecule that’s every dentists favourite for overall gum health. It’s very difficult to get enough of this from diet alone, so I recommend taking supplements to boost intake.
• Avoid sugary food and drinks. Bacteria in the mouth feeds on sugar, turning it into acid that can lead to tooth decay, so it’s best to steer clear on things like sweets and fizzy drinks.
• You are what you eat, so make sure your diet includes lots of greens like spinach and kale which are high in anti-oxidants, as well as vitamins including Vitamin K, which is an important nutrient for a healthy mouth.
How do I get an emergency dentist appointment?
Firstly, it’s important to understand whether or not the situation is emergency or not.
Issues such as a lost filling, dull toothache, mild sensitivity or a small chip in tooth can all be treated at a later date. Examples of more serious issues which would constitute an emergency include:
• Gums that will not stop bleeding
• Extreme tooth sensitivity or toothache causing constant pain
• A tooth that has been knocked out/is jagged
• Swollen cheeks/gums and general extreme pain from swelling or possible infection
Should you experience any of the above, try calling your dentist in the first instance as they may have setup a helpline to offer advice and if symptoms continue, call the NHS helps service on 111. If the situation is serious, you may need to go to A&E – however, especially at this time you should only do so if 100 per cent necessary and advised by a medical professional. Try to stay calm as stress will cause the body to react in way that will worsen the symptoms.
Here are a few things you can do at home to try and ease the situation:
• If your teeth is knocked out, place it in a glass of milk until it can be treated (the milk helps keep an acid-alkali ratio meaning the tooth won’t swell)
• Take paracetamol (or if safe to do so, ibuprofen) to help reduce the immediate pain
• Hold an ice pack (or a pack of frozen veg) on areas of swelling
• Dissolve salt in warm water and swish around the mouth for 60 seconds to help remove bacteria and clear infection
• Dab a small amount of clove oil on the affected area to help reduce pain
Last updated: 17-06-2020
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