COVID-19 – most dentists unable to provide ‘full service’ this year

Three quarters of dentists report they will not provide a full service this year or do not know when they will be able toThree quarters of dentists report they will not provide a full service this year or do not know when they will be able to. 

Additionally, only half (48%) of NHS practices say they have enough PPE to allow them to do their job properly.

This is according to a new survey called out by the Faculty of Dental Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons.

As a result, calls are being made for dentistry to remain open for the rest of the pandemic – and for the government to take action.

Since 8 June, dental practices across the UK have been able to resume treatment after two and a half months. Nearly all dentists surveyed (96%) say they were providing some level of service.

Looking ahead

Other findings include:

  • Private practices were more likely to carry out AGPs (83%). In NHS hospital practices, this dropped to 62% and fell again to 40% within NHS practices
  • Looking ahead, one third (34%) say they did not know when they would resume a full service of treatments. Additionally, 36% say they did not expect to resume full pre-pandemic services until 2021
  • Just under half (46%) of dentists say they were able to see more than 10 patients each morning or afternoon before the pandemic. But just 7% say this still applies.

On the other hand, while only half of NHS practices report having the necessary PPE, 80% of hospital-based dentists say they have adequate supplies.

Tackle obstacles

In a new report today, the Faculty of Dental Surgery calls on the government to:

  1. Keep dentistry open throughout the rest of the COVID-19 pandemic. PPE and infection prevention measures should be used to mitigate risks and keep patients safe
  2. Ensure an adequate supply of PPE across all regions and settings. Dental surgeons across specialties remain reliant on PPE. NHS general practice dentists need parity of access with NHS hospital practices. This is to ensure patients have access to safe treatment
  3. Tackle the obstacles to full resumption of dental care, particularly ‘fallow time’. Promote and monitor the use of ventilation systems to increase the number of ‘air changes per hour’ in dental settings.

Avoid further suspensions

‘There have been huge challenges for dentists trying to get services started again after the government hit the “off switch” back in March,’ said Matthew Garrett, dean of the faculty.

‘Few will be able to resume fully this year. It is critical that we avoid any further suspension of services in a second wave.

‘Already a considerable backlog has been created. Waiting lists for treatment will become insurmountable if we halt again, with disastrous consequences for patients.

‘We need urgent action in particular to help NHS general practice surgeries resume routine procedures like fillings and crown repair. These help the long-term good oral health of our patients and help prevent unnecessary dental extractions.

‘It is also crucial that dentists are able to see more patients each day, getting back to pre-pandemic levels as soon as possible. This can be achieved with better ventilation systems in surgeries, and with an adequate supply of PPE.’

He added: ‘As with the rest of society, dentistry is going to have to “live with” COVID for the foreseeable future. We need every support possible to open services up again and keep them running no matter what.’

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