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Out of date COVID-19 guidance leaving dentists and patients vulnerable


  Posted by: The Probe      18th March 2020

The British Dental Association (BDA) has demanded clarity from government as failure to communicate updated guidance on Coronavirus (COVID-19) leaves both dental teams and their patients at risk.

No updates have been provided to NHS dentists’ standard operating procedures since the World Health Organisation declared a pandemic and the government stepped up its response to containing the spread of the virus.

In a letter issued last night to the Chief Dental Officer for England Sara Hurley dentist leaders have expressed the profession’s grave concerns over the safety of patients and dental professionals when so little is known about COVID-19 contamination.

While concerns are growing about the virus being transmitted from asymptomatic patients, NHS England continue to advise that standard personal protective equipment remains appropriate.

Current guidance on maintaining a ‘business as usual’ approach to routine care also appears at odds with advice from the Prime Minister to limit social contact and postpone scheduled healthcare. GPs in England have already suspended routine care, and an increasing number of dentists worldwide are dealing exclusively with emergency cases.

Recently published research undertaken at the centre of the outbreak in Wuhan has suggested high risk of cross-infection in dental practices, while analysis of data from the US Department of Labor has indicated members of the dental team – including dentists, hygienists and nurses – are among the most at-risk workers given their physical proximity to patients and exposure to disease.

The BDA has also urged authorities to begin work on support packages for the service that is already well underway in Wales and Scotland. The overwhelming majority of high street dentists are self-employed contractors, who now face a deeply uncertain future.  

BDA Chair Mick Armstrong said:

“Out of date official guidance has left both dentists and patients in an untenable position. A ‘business as usual’ approach now stands at odds with both the Prime Minister’s guidance, and a growing body of evidence.

“Anxious colleagues deserve answers. They are at a loss at how government intends to keep their patients safe and their practices afloat.

“A service that millions depend on is uniquely exposed, and with no safety net in place. Without clear guidance and support a fully functioning dental service may end up a casualty of this pandemic.”

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