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Advice for patients

Routine dentistry during COVID-19 requires the correct social distancing measures and personal protective equipment to be in place.

The experience of going to a dentist might be different now, but they remain safe places to be. Dentists are working within the current guidelines issued by governments and are doing their best to help patients wherever possible.


Patients still need to be patient

Many practices are still catching up from when they were closed during the national lockdowns 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 is more disinfection of surgeries required after each treatment. 

If you need dental treatment, 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

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 ways of improving them with the relevant authorities.

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.

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.

It is likely to be some time before dental services can return to what you previously experienced as normal, but your dental teams will be doing all they can to ensure you receive the treatment you require in the safest way.

As such, you may see some patients and staff wearing face masks, as it is mostly personal preference now and, in addition, some dentists (but certainly not all) might be wearing respirators for more complex treatments or those where there might be "splatter" from the patient's mouth.

You can help, too, by not arriving at the practice without an appointment and, if you show any COVID symptoms following appointment booking, you should not attend the appointment but please tell the practice!