Urgent Need for Access to Dentistry says {my} dentist

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{my}dentist research shows urgent need for access to routine dentistry

Unprecedented levels of decay and periodontal disease, dental health neglect, lockdown overindulgence and life-threatening diagnoses missed – just some of the predictions regarding the UK’s dental health from professionals on the front line if access to affordable care isn’t increased.

A survey of {my}dentist’s clinicians across more than 600 dental practices, carried out during lockdown, revealed 96% of dentists, therapists and hygienists believe lockdown has had an adverse impact on the nation’s oral health and that greater access to affordable dental care is needed.

Preventing prevention

{my}dentist is calling for an urgent review of access to dentistry in response to the challenges. 88% of dental professionals believe the UK’s dental health could decline because of a lack of routine appointments leading to preventative dental issues worsening.

And a further 77% are especially worried that oral cancers will be missed and not referred. 60% of those asked also believe that some patients could put off going to the dentist to treat minor symptoms, such as toothache and bleeding gums, leading to larger problems in the longer-term.

But it’s not just a lack of access to dental practices during lockdown that dentists fear will leave a lasting impact on the nation’s health. 78% of {my}dentist clinicians worry about the oral health impact of lockdown comfort eating and over-indulgence in alcohol, sweets, snacks and sugary drinks.

As clinicians return to practice, they are bracing themselves for more caries, periodontal disease and trauma. 70% of dental professionals believe treatment for children with caries will be the most common reason for a visit to practice post-lockdown.

While 69% of clinicians predict an influx of adults looking for treatment to cope with periodontal disease, 58% believe treatment for trauma caused by broken or knocked-out teeth will be one of the main reasons adults will visit their practice.

Overall, 41% of clinicians believe it will take between a year and 18-months for the UK’s oral health to return to ‘normal’ after the COVID-19 crisis, and a further 12% predict it will take at least two years for the nation’s dental health to recover from lockdown.

They fear that without the right decisions in the right places, including ensuring there are enough dentists able to practise in the UK, it may take longer still. Even before the pandemic, more than 50% of all dental practices across the UK were closed to new NHS patients, with more than 75% reporting difficulties in recruiting enough dentists to meet demand.

Suspending routine dentistry came at a cost

Nyree Whitley (top) group clinical director at {my}dentist explains: “Temporarily suspending routine dentistry during the pandemic was absolutely the right thing to do to protect patients and colleagues and to help stop the spread of the virus. But it came at a cost and it will be felt by both the profession and patients for several years to come.

“Our research shows we’ve got a long journey ahead of us, particularly since access to affordable dentistry was limited before the pandemic. We’ve worked hard to reopen as quickly and as safely as possible to help get the nation’s dental health back on track, but we need an urgent review regarding access to dentistry to ensure no patient misses out.”

Since reopening its practices in June, {my}dentist has made significant investment to protect its colleagues and patients. Temperature checks have been introduced across all of its dental practices, as has the installation of protective screens and social distancing POS, floor stickers and posters, a review of suction in all surgeries, appropriate PPE for both AGPs and non-AGPs, hand sanitiser stations and a new patient journey to minimise time in practice.

To cope with patient demand and capacity issues {my}dentist practices are maintaining the phone triage service put into place during lockdown and individual practice plans are being rolled out to help maximise capacity in the fastest and safest way possible.

Nyree adds: “How the dental community has responded to this challenging time has been nothing short of fantastic, we’ve all adapted to new ways of working and pulled together to support one another.”

One of the ways which Nyree and her colleagues are supporting the wider dental community is through the {my}dentist Academy. A resource previously only available to {my}dentist professionals, for a limited time access to the academy has now been extended to the entire dental community, meaning everyone can easily engage and earn CPD through a variety of workshops and lectures.

For more information about {my} dentist, visit www.mydentist.co.uk 

To discover more about the {my} dentist Academy, visit https://www.mydentist.co.uk/academy/home