What does the 19 July mean for dentistry?

What does the 19 July mean for dentistry?Monday 19 July – the date we will wave goodbye to the restrictions that have guided our lives for more than 16 months. 

Dubbed ‘freedom day’, many wait in anticipation after it was pushed back from the end of June.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed that as it stands, the government will scrap most restrictions. Among these is the end to social distancing and the legal obligation to wear a face mask.

But the question many are asking within the profession is what will this all mean for dentistry?

Confusion following July announcement

Dr Sarveen Mann is the principal dentist at The Fulham Dentist. She believes it is important the profession does not lower its guard in response.

‘The government has announced that social distancing measures are to be scrapped and mask wearing is optional as of 19 July 2021,’ she said.

‘This has created a bit of confusion regarding what it would mean in a dental setting.

‘With the guidance in mind, patients would be able to attend, sit next to each other in the waiting room and not wear a face mask if they don’t want to.

‘However patients still need to feel we are keeping them safe. Especially as we are a health profession and one which involves close contact and bodily fluids. And at the same time we need to operate more efficiently.

‘The only thing the government guidance “allows” practices to do is to open their doors and allow them to mingle in the waiting room. It also means that all clinics could be operational within the practice. This may not have been the case with having to previously socially distance patients.

‘Regarding the mask wearing, this would now be a personal choice for patients. But we have to be aware of those that are vulnerable or anxious and make suitable arrangements to ensure they do not have to mingle with patients in the waiting room who choose not to wear a mask.’

Keep things safe and simple

‘Clinically there are no changes. There has been no update on the current SOP but my thoughts on this are:

  1. Continue screening patients through our medical history taking (including the vaccination status of our patients)
  2. Wear enhanced PPE for our protection whilst bearing in mind that disposable gowns are an environmental nightmare. So maybe wearing a reusable gown or apron which can be wiped down after procedures is a better option. Also that many of us clinicians and nurses are double jabbed. So fit testing might not be as vital as it is for vulnerable staff
  3. Air ventilation in surgeries is probably the best thing that has come out of the SOP guidelines
  4. High standards of cross infection control (which is what we were doing pre-COVID anyway).

‘With increasing infections we cannot drop our guard. But given the efficiency of the vaccines and the government guidelines I do believe we need to be keeping things simple, straightforward and, above all, safe.’

‘Let’s hope the dental powers that be, agree.’

National communications

Dr Mann is not the only one hoping top dental figures will take action.

Stephen Henderson, head of the dental division at MDDUS, this week wrote to CDO Sara Hurley.

He asked for a review of the guidance surrounding fallow time, PPE and the delivery of AGPs.

‘MDDUS has noticed a sharp rise in requests for advice from dental members following the government’s latest announcements about the proposed further lifting of restrictions in England, (and no doubt in the rest of the UK in due course) consequent changes to the coronavirus regulations and guidance,’ he writes.

He called for assurance that the SOP is reviewed in light of recent government announcements.

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