Due to the shutting down of dental practices during the COVID-19 pandemic, there is an estimated 10 million backlog of appointments by the British Dental Association (BDA).
According to the BDA, it could take months or even years for dental practices to work through the backlog. One of the major reasons is that many practices are not currently working at full capacity due to increased infection control requirements to prevent the spread of the virus. Since reopening, most practices are operating at a quarter of their normal capacity.
Before coronavirus struck, ten million treatments would have been performed by NHS and private dentists over a three-month period. But treatment fell by 97 percent after dentists were ordered to close their doors during the lockdown.
There is also a financial struggle faced by many dental practices forcing dentists to close them. Such closures of dental clinics could potentially leave millions of people without access to dental service.
‘It’s a struggle dealing with the backlog, let alone new cases. Ministers must ensure this does not become the new normal,’ Mick Armstrong says.
‘We have thousands of practices struggling to stay afloat. If they go under their patients have nowhere to go.’
Extra Infection Control Measures
- In order to allow the aerosol to settle down, a specific amount of time known as the “Fallow period” is to be allowed before calling the next patient in the operatory. The current protocol is a 60-minute fallow period after an Aerosol Generating Procedure and a 15-20 minute period for non-Aerosol Generating Procedures
- Pre-operative screening of patients
- Donning and doffing of Personal Protective Equipment
- Disinfection of equipment and operatory
This doubles the amount of time that was usually required for one patient which halves the number of patients treated.
Missing a routine check-up might not be an issue for some patients but other patients' problems would build up. One of the most significant impacts was the lack of diagnosis of oral cancer that is picked up during routine check-ups.
Another concern is a steep rise in caries because of an increase in the consumption of sugary foods among young children amid the lockdown. The interruption of dental services during lockdown leads to worsening of the situation.
‘These latest figures demonstrate the damage which too much sugar can do to young people’s teeth,’ Councillor Ian Hudspeth, Chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, says.
The full-fledged re-opening of the dental system depends on the rate of decline in new cases of infection.