What do I do about dental problems during lockdown? An expert answers key questions
- Credit: Archant
Nick Stolls, secretary of the Norfolk Local Dental Committee and a retired dentist of 40 years, has answered our key questions about dentist appointments in Norfolk during lockdown.
Q: What has happened to dental practises since the outbreak of coronavirus?
A: “When the virus was first reported, dentists were advised to restrict appointment. On March 25, the British Dental Association told dentists to stop face-to-face appointments and advised telephone appointments.
“However, for urgent dental care, NHS England has set up urgent dental care hubs (UDC) across the country of which there are three in Norfolk – in Norfolk, King’s Lynn and Great Yarmouth.”
Q: When should you seek dental care under lockdown?
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A: “If you are worried about anything or there is something causing concern it is worth calling your practice both NHS or private, if you have one, and if you don’t call 111. Routine check-ups, however, are not taking place to protect both patients and staff.”
Q: What is the process of getting an appointment?
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A: “Call your practice both NHS or private and as they are offering a telephone triage service. This means over the phone they will offer the three A service. This stands for advice, analgesia (painkillers) and antibiotics. Dentists can provide prescriptions over the phone.”
Q: I do not have a practice or have not seen a dentist in years. How do I get an appointment?
A: “If you need dental care and are not with a surgery either NHS or private call 111 and they will operate the same telephone triage.”
Q: What happens if symptoms have not improved despite the first telephone triage?
A: “If you are still in pain after three or four days, and the advice or medication prescribed is not having an effect, call your practice both NHS and private again if you have one and 111 if you do not.
“Either your dentist or 111 will then refer you the second-tier telephone triage. Clinicians operating on the second-tier telephone triage, of which there are 80 in the East of England, have access to appointments available at UDCs and if appropriate will book you one.”
Q: I have coronavirus or coronavirus symptoms but also need urgent dental care. What should I do?
A: “It is important if you need urgent dental care, even with coronavirus or coronavirus symptoms, you seek an appointment. At the second-tier telephone triage they will establish if you have symptoms or if you have been in contact with anyone who has. You will then still be referred to a UDC but will be seen at a specialist Covid-19 UDC, of which there is one in Norfolk. At these clinics, dentists have the highest level (3) of PPE.”
Q: What is the wait time for an appointment at an UDC?
A: “There is not a wait list for appointments at East of England UDCs currently and the maximum wait time is roughly 12 hours. There are periods of time when demand is greater for example, as with any dental practice across the country, Monday mornings are the busiest times for patients with urgent problems.”
Q: How many patients can be seen at a UDC?
A: “There is a limit to the number of patients seen in a session (morning or afternoon). In normal circumstances an NHS dentist could see 12-15 in one session. At the moment a dentist at a UDC will see about four in a session.“
Q: When will dental practices operate normally?
A: “Dental practices will start to see patients again normally when advised by the Chief Dental Officer and regulators. It is fair to say it will be a long time before it is business as usual.”