The experience of going to a dentist might be different now, but they remain safe places to be.
Patients still need to be patient
Many practices are still catching up from when they were closed during the first national lockdown and those delivering NHS care in particular may have a backlog.
For these practices, their priorities are likely to be:
- Patients needing urgent care
- Patients at higher risk of oral disease and
- Patients with outstanding treatment needs.
The reason for the long waits is not just because of the backlog, but also because there’s a lot more disinfection of surgeries required after each treatment. Depending on the nation, sometimes they have to wait anything up to an hour before they can have another patient in the chair.
NHS and private care
Some patients might find that a treatment is available quicker privately than it is on the NHS. As with medical care, this is often because the queue for NHS treatment is longer. It may simply be that there are many more people looking for NHS appointments than private appointments. Many practices will provide a mix of NHS and private care. But those practices will have a limit to the amount of NHS care they are able to provide. The BDA believes that the current NHS contracts do not work well for patients or for dentists and we are discussing with the relevant authorities ways of improving them.
Calling the practice
Please make sure you keep your appointment if you have one; it’s going to be safe and it’s important we don’t waste limited resources. If you can’t make an appointment, your practice may be able to offer it to someone else who really needs it.
If you’re looking for care, you may receive initial remote advice via the phone or video call. This may lead to advice being given or the arrangement of an appointment if the dentist deems it necessary. Some routine care like a check-up might be delayed, potentially until next year unfortunately.
Please be assured that dentists are working within the current guidelines issued by governments and are doing their best to help patients wherever possible.
Receptionists are also doing their best to ensure that priority cases are treated as soon as possible. Please treat all the staff with respect. We know it can be stressful, but they are doing their best to help.
Please check in with your own practice or if you haven’t regularly sought care:
- Phone NHS 111 if you live in England, Northern Ireland or Wales
- Phone NHS 24 if you live in Scotland
What are dental appointments like?
Practices are using personal protective equipment such as mask, gloves and aprons and social distancing measures to keep staff and patients safe.
- If you call to make an appointment, you will be asked some screening questions. You’ll be asked those same questions again at your appointment to see if anything has changed since you booked
- You will probably be asked to use hand sanitiser or to wash your hands when you arrive (and again before you leave)
- You might also be asked to wear a mask in the waiting rooms if you can
- You will also find that waiting rooms might look a little different with two metre markers in place
- You will also notice that the dental team may be wearing different protective equipment to what you are used to seeing – this will be to increase your protection
- Appointments will be managed to allow for social distancing between patients. That might mean that you’re offered fewer options for scheduling your appointment.
How you can help:
- Please do not arrive without an appointment
- With the exception of children and persons in need, patients should come alone
- Patients should attend wearing a mask if possible or be prepared to wear one. A distance of at least two metres mush be observed if another patient is present in the dental practice
- Please do not arrive early to the practice. If necessary, you should wait outside the practice
- Staff will not shake your hand
- If you show symptoms following appointment booking, you should contact NHS Test and Trace
- If asked to send in photographs of your children’s teeth, first watch this helpful
video on how to photograph children's teeth
It is likely to be some time before dental services can return to what you previously experienced as normal.
However, your dental teams will be doing all they can to ensure you receive the treatment you require in the safest way.