Following the Department of Health’s announcement of a phased return to dental services, BDA Northern Ireland has said a return to normality is likely to be some time off.
Unlike in England and Scotland, dental practices in Northern Ireland have remained open during the pandemic to provide limited face-to-face care to patients with an urgent dental care need. Around three-quarters of practices saw over 2,100 patients face-to-face in practice in the week ending 17 May, supporting provision of emergency dental care alongside the five Urgent Dental Care (UDC) centres.
Northern Ireland will be applying a phased approach to the restoration of General Dental Services. From 8 June, all practices will, subject to extenuating circumstances offer face-to-face dental care for patients with an urgent dental care need. Treatments will continue to be limited to non-aerosol generating procedures, with patients referred to UDC to have initially been seen face-to-face by the referring practice.
BDA is cautioning that this will not mean a return to ‘dentistry as normal’ come next week. Indeed, non-urgent dental care will only be available from Phase 2 of the dental recovery plan, while routine dental care and the use of aerosol-generating procedures will not become available until phase 3. Timescales for the introduction of phase 2 and 3 have not yet been made available.
Richard Graham, Chair of the BDA Northern Ireland Dental Practice Committee said:
"Dentists have been working hard in difficult circumstances since the beginning of lockdown to ensure that patients can receive the emergency care they require.
"If someone is experiencing severe dental pain, they should continue to call their own dentist in the first instance. The dentist will make an initial assessment over the phone, and will advise on the most appropriate course of treatment thereafter."