Dental practices begin to prepare for ‘new normal’

Dentists are getting ready for a phased return – with a continued emphasis on emergency care.

The new normal for dentistry in Scotland might be some way off, but across the country dental practices are beginning to prepare.

Since the end of March, dentists have been dealing with queries via the phone, with only the most serious cases sent on to central hubs such as dental hospitals.

No routine check-ups have been carried out, with dentist restricted by what they can do over concerns that aerosol procedures may put staff at risk.

However, in most cases, advice or a prescription has been issued where a patient has no Covid-19 symptoms.

Now some practices are getting ready for a phased return – with a continued emphasis on emergency care.

Dr Colin McClure, a dentist in Glasgow, said: “Whenever Phase 2 of the route map starts that means we can see emergency patients, so long as they don’t require the generation of aerosols.

“That means if a patient is in pain and they need a tooth extracted, we can do that, we can deal with the more severe emergencies basically”

Despite that return being on the horizon, dentists will still be restricted as they won’t be able to use certain tools.

Dr McClure said: “Pretty much all procedures we carry out use aerosol, we tend to use a 3-in-1 tool which means we can clean and dry the tooth. 

“We can see better when we have a dry tooth; we can’t use that which means we are limited when we perform an exam. 

“If you are getting anything done whether it’s a filling or a crown or a veneer or a bridge, anything like that, again we use a drill, that is going to generate aerosols – so we can’t do that.”

When that phased return does arrive, there is an expectation that, like many organisations, dentists will need to juggle restricted capacity with increased demand.

Dr McClure added: “I think we will be very busy whenever we go back to normal, phase 2 we will be seeing emergencies only, following that we will try to get back to normal.

“We have returning patients, patients who have developed problems during lockdown, non-routine attendees– they are going to come”

“Our capacity is going to have to drop due to social distancing, due to PPE – where as in a day before we could see 30 patients before I think dental practices will be struggling to see half that number.”

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