Since the British government enforced a nationwide lockdown on March 23 in a bid to help stop spread coronavirus, businesses and schools have been closed. And in line with the guidelines, this also included dentist practices. Now with guidelines changing, when will dentists in the UK reopen?
In the May 28 coronavirus briefing, Boris Johnson announced that dentists should reopen from June 8, but only if they are able to put in place adequate safety measures.
As a result, dentist practices may reopen on different dates, depending on their ability to access sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff, and to put in practice social distancing measures. In a statement on its website the British Dental Association wrote: "NHS England and the Chief Dental Officer have now confirmed that practices can provide face-to-face patient care from 8 June. This could see varying levels of treatments made available, with individual practitioners exercising their professional judgement on the pace of change.
What Will Dentist Practices Look Like When They Reopen?
If your local dentist practice is able to reopen on June 8, it's likely that going for an appointment will be a dramatically different experience from what it was before the coronavirus pandemic.
The BPA explains on its website: "We have also warned that the whole business model that the service is based on could change unalterably upon reopening, with social distancing and cross-infection control reducing capacity and potentially access levels by as much as two thirds."
As the BBC reports, NHS England's Chief Dental Officer has written to advise dental practices on what safety measures they should be putting in place if they are to reopen. These include the use of social distancing within waiting areas, regular screening of staff for COVID-19, and the installation of physical barriers like plastic shields in receptions.
But, as dentists need to be in close proximity with their patients, social distancing will not always be possible.
What Should I Do If I Require Emergency Dental Care Before June 8?
Many practices have remained open for emergency dental care during lockdown. Urgent dental hubs have been set up across the country, but some have not been able to open due to a lack of PPE, Sky News reports. The Guardian also reports, “there are just 423 operational emergency hubs in England, compared with 9,000 dental practices.”
If you're in need of emergency dental care before June 8 and you have a dentist, the best thing to do is get in touch with them to check if they are offering emergency appointments. If they are not, they may still be able to refer you to an urgent dental care hub.
Use NHS 111
If you do not have a dentist or cannot contact them, the NHS recommends using NHS 111. Simply by filling out the online questions about symptoms, they will be able to provide answers to your questions, find out when and where to get help, and contact from a nurse, if required.
The NHS also advises that those in need of emergency dental care out of hours should not call their GP as they will not be able to provide out of hours dental care.
It also recommends that if you're experiencing severe pain, heavy bleeding or are suffering from an injury to your face, mouth, or teeth, you should go to A&E to seek treatment as soon as possible.