Dental practices in the UK are set to reopen from 8 June. Here’s what appointments might look like going forward.
By Dr Richard Marques BDS
Dental practices in the UK can reopen from 8 June if they put in place appropriate safety measures, Prime Minister Boris Johnson says.
When will dentists reopen in the UK?
Dental practises in the UK will be allowed to reopen from 8 June.
In a letter to practices, NHS England’s chief dental officer Sara Hurley said: ‘We are asking that all dental practices commence opening from Monday, 8 June for all face-to-face care, where practices assess that they have the necessary IPC and PPE requirements in place.’
However, not all practices may reopen on this date. British Dental Association chairman Mick Armstrong said that while dentists would be relieved by the announcement, practices should be allowed to decide for themselves when they are ready to open, based on the availability of personal protective equipment.
‘Dentists can open their doors but won’t be able to provide a full range of care without the necessary kit. Longer term, practices can only stay afloat with ongoing support, while social distancing continues and the costs of providing care are sky high.’
What is the current situation with dentists?
Routine dental treatments have been put on hold since 23 March, the day that the the UK went into lockdown to help curb the spread of coronavirus. Emergency dental problems have been referred to an Urgent Dental Care (CDC) hub. More than 550 of these centres, which met the social distancing requirements, have been established around the country.
How will going to the dentist change after 8 June?
Ms Hurley has outlined the sorts of measures and practices that dentists will need to consider before reopening:
- Limiting use of waiting areas
- Establishing single entry and exit points for patients
- Making sure hand sanitiser is available for use
- Waiting room chairs to be spaced 2m apart
- Screening staff on a daily basis
- Installing physical barriers
Further guidance is set to be released that will cover urgent dental care.
What will dental appointments look like?
According to the British Dental Association, the following will apply:
- You will be asked to use hand sanitiser or to wash your hands when you arrive and again before you leave.
- Waiting rooms will comply with social distancing measures with 2m markers in place.
- The dental team may be wearing different protective equipment.
How can I make a dentist appointment?
Appointments will be scheduled over the phone or online only. If you call to make an appointment, you will be asked some screening questions. You will be asked the same questions again at your appointment.
However, because practices will manage appointments to allow for social distancing between patients, there may be fewer options for scheduling your appointment.
How to look after your teeth at home
However, just because you are social distancing from your dentist does not mean your oral health needs to suffer. We spoke to leading London dentist Dr Richard Marques about how to look after your teeth and oral health during the coronavirus lockdown.
The best thing you can do to avoid needing to see a dentist, is to maintain a good oral health routine. Here are some general tips:
- Brush twice daily for two to three minutes in the morning and evening. Any more and you can wear the teeth away, any less the teeth and gums may suffer.
- Don’t forget to floss. Make sure you’re cleaning between the teeth at least once a day with dental floss, interdental brushes or an electric air or water flosser.
- Rinse your mouth with an alcohol-free mouthwash to kill bacteria your toothbrush might miss. Use after brushing and whenever you need a quick freshen up.
- Chew on some sugar-free gum for quick-fix to freshen breath, just be careful not to use this in place of brushing or rinsing as it won’t eliminate odour causing bacteria.
- Don’t forget about your tongue. Use your toothbrush or a tongue scraper daily to remove bacteria and food residue left behind, keeping your mouth clean and your breath fresh.
- Take Co Enzyme Q10, a vital molecule that’s every dentists favourite for overall gum health. It’s very difficult to get enough of this from diet alone, so I recommend taking supplements to boost intake.
- Avoid sugary food and drinks. Bacteria in the mouth feeds on sugar, turning it into acid that can lead to tooth decay, so it’s best to steer clear on things like sweets and fizzy drinks.
- You are what you eat, so make sure your diet includes lots of greens like spinach and kale which are high in anti-oxidants, as well as vitamins including Vitamin K, which is an important nutrient for a healthy mouth.
What should I do if I need dental treatment before 8 June?
Firstly, it’s important to understand whether or not the situation is emergency or not.
Issues such as a lost filling, dull toothache, mild sensitivity or a small chip in tooth can all be treated at a later date. Examples of more serious issues which would constitute an emergency include:
- Gums that will not stop bleeding
- Extreme tooth sensitivity or toothache causing constant pain
- A tooth that has been knocked out/is jagged
- Swollen cheeks/gums and general extreme pain from swelling or possible infection
Should you experience any of the above, try calling your dentist in the first instance as they may have setup a helpline to offer advice and if symptoms continue, call the NHS helps service on 111. If the situation is serious, you may need to go to A&E – however, especially at this time you should only do so if 100 per cent necessary and advised by a medical professional. Try to stay calm as stress will cause the body to react in way that will worsen the symptoms.
Here are a few things you can do at home to try and ease the situation:
- If your teeth is knocked out, place it in a glass of milk until it can be treated (the milk helps keep an acid-alkali ratio meaning the tooth won’t swell)
- Take paracetamol (or if safe to do so, ibuprofen) to help reduce the immediate pain
- Hold an ice pack (or a pack of frozen veg) on areas of swelling
- Dissolve salt in warm water and swish around the mouth for 60 seconds to help remove bacteria and clear infection
- Dab a small amount of clove oil on the affected area to help reduce pain