Dentistry in the time of COVID-19

As dental practices begin to re-open I wanted to give you an update what to expect from your dental practice, as well as an update on the practice where I treat patients, The Fountain Dental Practice, and when I will be able to treat patients again.

Late in March the Chief Dental Officer of England advised all dental practices to close. Since then we have been waiting patiently, watching the numbers, listening to the rumours, hypothesising what might happen, but ultimately waiting for further guidance on when and how we would be able to re-open.

Dentists found out we would be able to re-open on Monday 8th June from an announcement on the BBC evening news one week earlier. We received a communication from the Chief Dental Officer shortly after this telling us that guidelines on how we would need to operate would be published soon. This was published on the Thursday after, one working day before we were allowed to re-open.

Re-opening is a complicated business. Getting the necessary PPE is hard enough, but the special masks need to fit tested. Even if you find a certified test tested, the fit testing kits are in short supply. We are working hard on this but have been held back. We hope to re-open later this week or early next week.

When we re-open we will only be seeing a small number of patients initially to deal with a backlog of dental emergencies and more urgent treatment but we hope to be able to carry out more routine care soon.

What to Expect
When you arrive we will ask you to wait outside if the weather if nice, and you will be called in directly to the surgery when we are ready for you. This avoids problems of social distancing in the small waiting room. However, those who need to come in and sit down will be able to. You will need to hand sanitise on entry and exit. We will discourage you from using our toilet facilities if possible, but they are there for essential need. We aim to take payments and make your next appointment over the phone so patients will not need to gather in reception. If we need to carry out any procedures using the drill we are required to wear full length surgical gowns and respirator masks. These are very hot uncomfortable so we will want to avoid lengthy procedures if we can until this level PPE is no longer required. After such procedures the room will need to be left fallow for one hour for the aerosol to settle before we go in, deep clean all surfaces and mop the floor with bleach. We will try and see the vulnerable and shielding on different days, or at the beginning of a session to further minimise risk.

Feedback from practices that have managed to open it that with the current guidelines in place they are only able to see around a quarter of the number of patients. The increased cost of PPE and time needed for decontamination will put up our costs enormously. To ensure it is financially viable for us to re-open we are likely to need to include some temporary surcharges to reflect these increased costs. This will only be for a limited period, until we are able to get back to working more normally.

In the meantime I am always at the end of the phone if you are worried and need advice.

Stay safe and I look forward to seeing you soon.