Dental practices have had to remain closed for the last few weeks after the country went into lockdown following the unprecedented spread of coronavirus across the nation. However, as surgeries begin opening their doors, many are wary of the new procedures they have to enforce to keep both staff and patients safe.
The government revealed last month that dentists could open for limited procedures from June 8th if they were able to put safety measures in place.
While this is great news for those who have been waiting for emergency check-ups since March, many dental surgeons are wary of being able to start seeing patients, as they feel they have not had adequate support from the government.
What’s more, many dental practices are suffering from not having enough personal protective equipment (PPE) or having had the chance to promote their new procedures and opening rules to their patients.
Board chair of the British Dental Association (BDA) Mick Armstrong said: “From PPE to getting practices set up for social distancing, it has not given colleagues the time to plan and prepare. From lower patient volumes to higher costs, we know practices will need support to survive the ‘new normal’.”
He went on to say the BDA has been asking for a timeline for when practices can open for face-to-face care for a while. However, this news “came as a bolt from the blue”, and as a result, “opening the floodgates without recognising the scale of the challenge ahead is fraught with problems”.
To gauge the opinion of dental surgeons across the UK, the BDA launched a survey, asking what challenges they are experiencing having had to open to the public with very little notice. Although the results of the questionnaire have yet to be released, it is thought many practice owners will have been highly concerned they would not be able to fulfil the adequate safety and social distancing measures with just a few days to do so.
As a result, the majority of practices in England has only opened for emergency procedures, with only a third (36 per cent) having opened at all on the official date, according to BBC News.
The major obstacle for the rest of the surgeries is being unable to source enough PPE, as well as struggling to fund it having not been open since late March.
Sophia Joseph, an NHS dentist practice manager in Sheffield, told the publication: “Apart from actually finding the equipment, there are other problems. Costs of this equipment have gone up from £5 to £50 for boxes of simple masks.”
By the end of June, nearly two-thirds (60 per cent) of practices said they intend to re-open to the public after finally receiving official guidance on how to prepare their surgeries to see patients.
The new measures include limiting use of waiting areas, spacing chairs two metres apart, screening staff on a daily basis, installing physical barriers in reception areas, and dentists having to wear gloves, gowns and face shields.
Dental practices should also advertise their new procedures to all patients to make sure they adhere to the guidelines themselves, such as waiting outside for their appointment and are not put off by the amount of PPE they see. For help with digital marketing for dentists, give us a call today.