Health Minister Eluned Morgan has today (Thursday 1 July) set out a path for a gradual increase in routine dental services in Wales.
She also confirmed her commitment to the wider reform of NHS dentistry but said changes to the NHS dentistry contract will be postponed until next year to allow the service to recover from the impact of the pandemic.
The Minister said:
The way people have accessed dental services during the pandemic has changed but NHS dentistry services have continued to be there for those who need it most.
Dentistry has been one of the most challenging services for us to deliver during the pandemic because of aerosol generating procedures and the need for dentists to be in such close proximity to the patient.
But the service has responded to meet the challenge of providing for those most in need. I want thank all those in the service who have worked tirelessly to deliver this.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, dentists have seen more than 1.3m people in practices across Wales and provided 340,000 consultations remotely, via phone or video services. Pain relief and antibiotics have continued to be prescribed where necessary.
The number of urgent cases seen by dentists is beginning to return to pre-pandemic levels, allowing practices to address the treatment back log and offer routine assessment wherever capacity allows.
But the Health Minister has said the return of other routine dental services will be gradual as teams focus on the most urgent work and people who have had treatment delayed.
Dental practices will need to continue to follow strict infection control measures to help prevent the spread of COVID. As the risks reduce they will be able to increase the treatments and routine assessment they provide, she said.
We are now viewing this year as a reset and recovery period but we remain committed to reform in dentistry. That is why I am today announcing postponing the contract reforms until April 2022 to give the service a chance to focus on recovery.
Dr Colette Bridgman, Chief Dental Officer for Wales, said:
Dental teams in Wales are doing their best to ensure everyone is treated as soon as it is possible and to do so safely. Please continue to be patient and to enable those with greater need to be treated first.
In the meantime please continue to maintain your mouth health, follow the advice of your dentist, reduce the frequency and amount of sugar in your diet and brush teeth with fluoride toothpaste, last thing at night and on one other occasion daily, not forgetting to spit out the toothpaste after brushing and don’t rinse so its stays on the teeth to offer protection.
Anyone who needs urgent dental care can access it via 111 or by contacting your health board for advice. Until normal service resumes, there are many ways people can maintain good dental health. More information on dental health care and treatment is available at NHS 111 Wales - Health A-Z : Tooth decay