At the time of writing, the country has just left a Tier 2 lockdown and everybody who works in dentistry is more than grateful. Unfortunately, many dentist in Nottingham are all experiencing very long backlogs and with most surgeries there is an extensive waiting list for new patients. Beyond this there is also the chance that the lock downs could return and before too long it’s possible that we could experience another national Tier 2.
Unfortunately a big part of what has given many dental teams substantial waiting lists was not actually government lockdown but people’s interpretation of them. In the first national lockdown, dentists were not considered key workers and had to close their doors regardless of what precautions they took. In the second national tier 2, there was no reason for dentists to cease their activity as long as they stuck to recommended guidelines.
A big part of this was because so many people require dental care but were unable to access their local dentists and found themselves having to attend A&E. This was an additional pressure and more that traffic in A&E at a time when hospitals were attempting to minimise the number of people entering their premises.
Regardless of the vast majority of clinics being open during the second lockdown, patients simply stayed away doing their best not to attend and often missing standard check-ups and screenings. Thus, many found themselves having to book emergency appointments and adding to the already extensive waiting lists.
So as much as everyone is very eager to be a stay-at-home hero and observe social distancing regulations, it turned out that failing to attend regular dental appointments created more issues than it solved. If you find yourself in a future lock down, keep this in mind but you aren’t doing anyone a favour least of all yourself if you put off dental care.
The NHS considers gum disease and related conditions, like tooth loss that occurs due to gum disease, a major issue that requires prevention. If you have lost dentures or a bridge, these are also considered urgent.
But is it safe?
For the vast majority of patients attending a dental surgery during a Tier 2 lockdown is entirely safe and reasonable for local travel. Dental surgeries maintain an extremely high level of hygiene, simply as part of routine dentistry; much of the standard PPE was already part of clinical practice and shortages were not noticed.
Patients with known high-risk conditions such as autoimmune deficiencies, which would place them in the sheltering and shielding category, would not be recommended to attend a dental clinic unless there was a pressing dental emergency. But this represents a very small amount of the possible patients and far less than those who chose to stay away during the last Tier 2.
The government guidelines
The official government guidelines surrounding dental care have been released and are now publicly available. The General Council of Dentistry has not only endorsed these guidelines but has enacted their own version which are even more stringent in manners of sterilising clinical spaces and waiting areas.