‘It won’t be business as usual’- dentists prepare for challenges of reopening
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Thousands of patients in Norfolk will have longer waits to see their dentist as practices make preparations to reopen.
Last Thursday the government announced that dental practices could begin opening from Monday, June 8, with operating guidelines issued to practices on Thursday this week.
Figures from the British Dental Association (BDA) released on Friday showed that 60pc of dental practices estimate they will be able to treat less than a quarter of the patient numbers they saw pre-COVID-19, and will struggle to get ready for social distancing by Monday.
Some practices will bring in phased openings from Monday, with many asking people to be patient while they prioritise the most urgent treatments and reduce the number of people they see in a day. Many have advised that routine check-ups may be some time away.
Nick Stolls, secretary for the Norfolk Local Dental Committee, said half of practices he spoke to were not in the position to open for face to face consultation on June 8, and those that do will not be able to offer a full range of treatments.
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He said: “The priority for practices is they treat their patients in a safe way and their staff are protected. There should be no criticism or reflection they have not prepared themselves.”
For treatments requiring a drill, dentists will be required to wear a high level of PPE, including fit-tested masks, and once the procedure is complete must leave the room for an hour to let aerosol particle settle before deep cleaning for patients.
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Dentists will also have to carry out screening processes before patients arrive for their appointment. They will also continue the triage service over the phone and urgent dental hubs will continue to operate.
Jason Stokes, co-owner of Cathedral Street Practice in Norwich, said it was important to manage people’s expectations of services.
Mr Stokes said: We are trying to prioritise those with urgent treatments but some of them are the most challenging to deliver. Previously we could fit people in at the end of the day as emergencies and we could have handled that but that flexibility and adaptability won’t be available right now.”
At West Earlham Dental Practice, in Norwich, there are around 150 patients who need to be seen on an urgent basis, before any new daily emergencies.
Dr Gautam Sharma says while they await stocks the practice will aim to reopen for treatments from June 22. He estimated due to aerosol particles, their footfall will drop from 60 patients a day to between 10 or 15.