Leading dental figures say dentistry ‘desperately needs’ more advice on what teams can do in practice to secure a future for the profession.
Speaking at the Westminster Health Forum Policy Conference this morning, an expert panel put forward ideas on the next steps for dentistry in response to the pandemic.
Dr Ian Mills, the dean of the Faculty of General Dental Practice (FGDP(UK)), headed up a discussion on practice priorities as they work through the obstacles of lockdown and COVID-19.
Summarising the response of the profession, he said the capacity of urgent dental care centres (UDCs) fell below the ‘needs and demands’ of the population.
He also emphasised that in some cases there was an ‘inappropriate prescribing’ of antimicrobials to patients.
‘Fallow time the greatest barrier’
Speaking about the risk of COVID-19 in the practice, he said: ‘Clearly there’s still a risk of transmission…but we appreciate these risks better than six months ago.
‘There’s now clear guidance on how we should manage these.’
He added: ‘Fallow time is the greatest barrier to getting back to some kind of capacity.’
Additionally, other key obstacles include:
- Social distancing requirements
- Enhanced disinfection and cleaning protocols
- Staffing issues
- Childcare complications
- Reluctance of patients to attend practice, especially those who are vulnerable.
He also warned that a further lockdown in dentistry comparable to that of March is ‘unnecessary and inadvisable’. However, he acknowledged that the future is uncertain regarding hospitalisation and fatalities.
‘Further compromise to access is likely to impact disproportionately on those who most need the care,’ he said.
Growing need for prevention
Dr Mills highlighted three priorities for dentistry going forward:
- Increased capacity within the system
- Support for the dental profession
- Clear vision for the future.
Rebecca Sadler, director of clinical dentistry and Portman Dental Care, and Dr Michael Heffernan, discussed dental care in a COVID-19 environment.
Discussing obstacles faced, the former pointed out that, on average, a dental professional had to undergo three fit tests during the pandemic.
Additionally, 4% of the workforce has not passed on any respiratory mask.
Dr Heffernan emphasised a need to move towards more preventative measures, including oral health education at schools and institutions.
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