{my}dentist research reveals the urgent need to grow access to dentistry

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  Posted by: The Probe      29th July 2020

Unprecedented levels of decay and periodontal disease, dental health neglect, lockdown overindulgence and life-threatening diagnoses missed – just some of the predictions for the UK’s dental health from professionals on the front line if access to affordable care isn’t increased.

A survey of {my}dentist’s clinicians across more than 600 dental practices, carried out during lockdown, revealed 96 per cent of dentists, therapists and hygienists believe lockdown has had an adverse impact on the nation’s oral health and that greater access to affordable dental care is needed. {my}dentist, the country’s largest provider of affordable and NHS dental care, is calling for an urgent review of access to dentistry in response to the challenges.

Prevention has been prevented

Eighty-eight per cent of dental professionals believe the UK’s dental health could decline because of a lack of routine appointments leading to preventative dental issues worsening.

And a further 77 per cent are especially worried that oral cancers will be missed and not referred.

Sixty per cent of the clinicians asked also believe that some patients could put off going to the dentist to treat minor symptoms, such as toothache and bleeding gums, leading to larger problems in the longer-term. 

Lockdown diets

But it’s not just a lack of access to dental practices during lockdown that dentists fear will leave a lasting impact on the nation’s health.

Seventy-eight per cent of {my}dentist clinicians worry about the impact on oral and dental health of lockdown comfort eating and over-indulgence in alcohol, sweets, snacks and sugary drinks.

In-demand dentistry

As clinicians return to practice, they are bracing themselves for more caries, periodontal disease and trauma.

Seventy per cent of dental professionals believe treatment for children with caries will be the most common reason for a visit to practice post-lockdown.

While 69 per cent of clinicians predict an influx of adults looking for treatment to cope with periodontal disease and 58 per cent believe treatment for trauma caused by broken or knocked out teeth will be one of the main reasons adults return to their practice.

The lockdown hangover

Overall, 41 per cent of clinicians believe it will take between a year and 18-months for the UK’s oral health to return to ‘normal’ after the COVID-19 crisis.

And a further 12 per cent predict it will take at least two years for the nations dental health to recover from lockdown. Without the right decisions, including ensuring there are enough dentists able to practise in the UK, it may take longer still.

Even before the pandemic, more than 50 per cent of all dental practices across the UK were closed to new NHS patients, with more than 75 per cent reporting difficulties in recruiting enough dentists to meet demand. 

Nyree Whitley, group clinical director at {my}dentist comments: “Temporarily suspending routine dentistry during the pandemic was absolutely the right thing to do to protect patients and colleagues and to help stop the spread of the virus. But it came at a cost and it will be felt by both the profession and patients for several years to come.

“As our research shows we’ve got a long journey ahead of us, particularly since access to affordable dentistry was limited before the pandemic. We’ve worked hard to reopen as quickly and as safely as possible to help get the nation’s dental health back on track, but we need an urgent review of access to dentistry to ensure no patient misses out.”

Since reopening its practices in June, {my}dentist has made significant investment to protect its  colleagues and patients.

Temperature checks have been introduced across all of its dental practices, as has the installation of protective screens and social distancing POS, floor stickers and posters, a review of suction in all surgeries, appropriate PPE for both AGPs and non-AGPs, hand sanitiser stations and a new patient journey to minimise time in practice. 

To cope with patient demand and capacity issues {my}dentist practices are still offering the phone triage service which was put into place during lockdown and individual practice plans are being rolled out to help maximise capacity in the fastest and safest way possible. 

Nyree adds: “How the dental community has responded to this challenging time has been nothing short of fantastic, we’ve all adapted to new ways of working and pulled together to support one another.”

One of the ways which Nyree and her colleagues are supporting the wider dental community during this challenging time is through the {my}dentist Academy.

A resource previously available only to {my}dentist professionals, access to the academy has now been extended for a limited time to all the whole dental community so everyone can take part in world-class CPD through a variety of workshops and lectures. 

For more information visit www.mydentist.co.uk


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