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Patients face temperature checks and ‘skeleton service’ as dentists reopen

PUBLISHED: 16:01 08 June 2020 | UPDATED: 16:25 08 June 2020

Dental staff will be wearing full PPE amongst other coronavirus safety measures as practices begin to reopen from June 8. Picture: Victoria Jones/PA Wire

Dental staff will be wearing full PPE amongst other coronavirus safety measures as practices begin to reopen from June 8. Picture: Victoria Jones/PA Wire

People in need of urgent dental treatment faced a “skeleton service” and strict new safety measures as some dentists reopened after 12 weeks in lockdown.

Dentists in Norfolk began a phased reopening from June 8 with new coronavirus measures in place. Picture: NHSDentists in Norfolk began a phased reopening from June 8 with new coronavirus measures in place. Picture: NHS

Patients, some who have been nursing painful or discomforting problems, were finally able to see a dentist at some practises in Norfolk from Monday but many were not able to offer a full range of treatments.

The British Dental Association (BDA) warned there will be no return to “business as usual” as practices prioritise patients in the most urgent need of treatment and introduce strict social distancing and hygiene rules.

At Diss Dental Health Centre, which was amongst those to reopen on Monday, patients had to undergo a phone risk assessment before a face-to-face appointment.

Dr Gautam Sharma, of the West Earlham Dental Practice in Norwich. Picture: SubmittedDr Gautam Sharma, of the West Earlham Dental Practice in Norwich. Picture: Submitted

They are required to wear a mask and to wait outside before being called in to undergo a temperature check and to sanitise their hands.

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Riverside Dental Practice in Norwich plans to reopen on June 11 but patients will have their temperature taken with anyone above 37.8°C not being treated.

Dental practices have been told they can reopen from June 8  if adequate coronavirus safety measures are in place to protect staff and patients. Picture: Victoria Jones/PA WireDental practices have been told they can reopen from June 8 if adequate coronavirus safety measures are in place to protect staff and patients. Picture: Victoria Jones/PA Wire

Dr Bim Sawhney, clinical director and practice owner, said: “The vast majority of our patients are otherwise healthy without coronavirus infection and we are confident that we are able to provide normal dental care for these patients in as normal an environment as possible while bearing in mind our responsibilities to mitigate risks of infection spread as far as is practically possible.

“This policy will be constantly reviewed and updated as necessitated by circumstances over time.”

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Rachel Webb, director of primary care and public health for NHS England in the East of England, said: “Practices will look quite different, as measures have been put in place to provide a safe environment for dental services.

“These precautions will mean that clinicians will not be able to work as quickly as usual.”

Dr Gautam Sharma, of the West Earlham Dental Practice in Norwich, which aims to reopen from June 22, said the practice had about 150 patients needing to be seen on an urgent basis, before any new daily emergencies, but expected to treat about 10 to 15 a day when it reopens.

A dentist prepares for an aerosol generating procedure wearing full PPE. Picture: Victoria Jones/PA WireA dentist prepares for an aerosol generating procedure wearing full PPE. Picture: Victoria Jones/PA Wire

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He said: “I think it is really important that we let the public know what is going to be a new normal where we have been closed for nearly two and a half months.

“There are thousands of appointments that we have had to cancel, but it is really important that we start to see our urgent care patients who have had a lot of pain or problems.”

Some patients in Norfolk said they feared they may face further waits as the backlog of urgent cases is cleared.

David Bowden, from Dereham, said: “I lost a front crown shortly after lockdown. Luckily it hasn’t been painful, so I’m not sure it will be seen as urgent. I might be left waiting a few more weeks.”

Maree Lynn Woodcock said: “I have been left with holes in my teeth as was in the middle of treatment and had an infection 10 weeks ago and I have been in pain since.

“I phoned my dentist and was told to buy filler from Boots as they wouldn’t be doing work on teeth for a long time.”


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