To help reduce the spread of coronavirus, since March we have scaled-back normal NHS dentistry services to help protect the public, dental teams and our local communities.
Many dental procedures, such as fillings or scaling, use high-speed drills and other tools which are “aerosol generating” – this means they create spray. This, in the current pandemic, could risk spreading the virus and that’s why we’ve asked dentists to stop routine activity for the time being.
However, dentists in Wales have remained open for urgent care throughout the lockdown. They have seen 10,000 people in practices and provided 125,000 consultations remotely, via phone or video services. Pain relief and antibiotics have continued to be prescribed where necessary.
Fifteen urgent dental care centres have been opened covering the whole country. These centres have provided emergency treatment to more than 4,000 people – this includes extractions, opening teeth to drain abscesses and treating traumatic injuries.
Coronavirus has not gone away and it is likely we will be living with the virus and its consequences for some time to come. The return of dental services will be gradual, in line with the Welsh Government’s cautious, wider approach to easing lockdown.
As levels of coronavirus stabilise and the restrictions begin to ease, we are looking at how we can restart dental services through three phases:
- First phase: Urgent dental centres and dental practices will introduce more treatments and a full range of care, including fillings, will be available at some local dental practices to everyone who urgently needs them and has experienced problems during lockdown. This group of people will be offered assessment and care first.
- Second phase: A full range of care will be available in more practices and prioritised for people who need treatment, including those who have had treatment delayed because of the pandemic.
- Third phase: routine check-ups for people with no dental problems and good oral health will be resumed.
The first phase will begin from 1 July, prioritised by need. Strict infection control measures, including social distancing will be in place to protect dental practice staff and people being assessed.
As normal dental services resume, we will continue to work to improve access to dental services for all. Everyone attending a NHS dentist will receive a full review of their teeth and gums as well as a detailed assessment of any known risks, keeping them informed about good oral health and to prevent future issues.
We are very grateful to everyone who has been waiting for treatment during lockdown and will do our best to ensure everyone is treated as soon as it is possible to do so safely. Please continue to be patient and to enable those with the greatest needs to be treated first.
- Dr Colette Bridgman, Chief Dental Officer for Wales