A dental hygienist has kicked off a campaign to spread awareness of the current concerns and issues faced by dentistry.
Christina Chatfield, of Dental Health Spa in Brighton, has launched Save Our Smiles – an initiative aimed at highlighting the importance of dental care.
With the help of other hygienists and therapists, it also hopes to raise money for the Oral Health Foundation as part of National Smile Month.
This comes as the government announces dental practices in England will be able to open from Monday 8 June 2020 after 10 weeks of closure.
Practices in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, however, are looking at a more phased return.
As part of the campaign, dental professionals and members of the public are being called upon to get involved.
Using a new filter on the Save our Smiles Instagram page, dental teams can change the appearance of their teeth to a rotten-toothed smile. They are urged to use the hashtags #SOS #SaveOurSmiles.
Christina hopes it will help dentistry be better valued by both the public and the government after practices have seen incomes plummet to zero since the end of March.
Struggling for PPE
Practices are advised to change the layouts of their practices to accommodate social distancing measures and source PPE. Yet Christina argues this is not a simple process.
‘Most of the profession were informed of this at the same time as the public, giving practices limited time to implement the safety changes that were also announced on the same day,’ she said.
‘Many practices are struggling to get hold of the PPE required. They now can’t afford the inflated costs after 10 weeks with zero income.
‘Additionally, many aren’t qualifying for the government grant and rate relief schemes.’
At the beginning of the pandemic, Christina donated all her PPE to the frontline. Now, a box of 50 surgical masks that cost Christina £3 prior to lockdown has risen to £50.
Additionally, she has been quoted £3,000 plus VAT for a minimum order of 1,000 FFP2 masks. Protective screens are costing up to £1,000 a piece.
Missed oral cancer screenings
Christina emphasises that grants and rates relief for private practices are still of crucial importance for the sake of the nation’s health.
‘It is estimated 6.4 million people have missed out on essential dental care in the last 10 weeks,’ she said.
’That’s 6.4 million people who have missed out on oral cancer screenings. This is alongside those suffering from gum disease who are missing out on treatment.
‘Gum disease is linked to diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and dementia. Consequently, we are looking at a huge dental health care crisis, with enormous implications on the under-funded NHS.’