Back in March the NHS’s scientific advisors identified dentistry as being high risk for transmitting Covid-19, This puts patients and the dental team at high risk of spreading and contracting the virus due to the nature of the procedures that we carry out, i.e. the aerosols created using instruments like the drill and also the close proximity of staff and patients. Due to this all dental practices were told only to provide emergency telephone advice.

Since this ceasing of all face to face dentistry, both the practice and patients have been anxiously waiting on news of when it would be safe for us to resume treating our patients.

We are now preparing to reopen but we will have to manage these risks to protect our patients, staff and the wider community. We also have to consider the implications of being closed for such a long time, those patients with problems and those that were already under treatment. To begin with we will need to prioritise appointments. We will need to concentrate on emergency and urgent care along with stabilising existing conditions.

In order to accommodate the extra infection control measures required at this time and the need to maintain social distancing measures appointments will have to be longer. These measures will also mean fewer dentists will be able to work at the same time. Overall this means we will not be able to run at our normal capacity.

If you think you need an appointment, call the practice where a receptionist will take your details and pass on to a dentist, who will return the call and make a decision on whether your case meets the emergency or urgent criteria. This is so crucial to managing workload to begin with, that the role of booking appointments will no longer be a receptionists’ duty and down to the triaging dentist only. We will look to move on once the backlog of emergencies and those under treatment has been managed, to provide non urgent and routine care – although we are unable to put a time frame on this at present.

If you do attend you will need to be screened, sanitise your hands, wear gloves and wear a face mask. Patients will only be able to attend on their own unless a carer is needed.

The type of treatment we will be able to offer initially will be extremely limited as there is a nationwide shortage of the appropriate PPE (personal protective equipment) in order to carry out certain treatments safely. In short, we cannot pick up the drill, which some patients may be pleased about! There will be the option of being able to refer for treatment but this is dependent on the accepting urgent care referral centre.

We want to reassure our patients that on reopening, the dental team at PMA will be working very hard to protect the safety of our patients and staff, with our infection prevention measures taking on a whole new dimension. This will mean that you can expect things to look different if you are attending for an appointment. The admin team will be able to give information to those patients with appointments on what they can expect, and what we need to ask of our patients.
We understand that many patients will be anxious to be seen to have their treatments carried out and some patients may feel frustrated if we are not able to see them immediately, but we hope that you can be patient with us while we try our very best to work through these challenging times.

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.

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