When lockdown began on the 23rd March, shops, businesses and services across the UK were closed to customers and patients to help contain the spread of Covid-19, and Essex dentists and dental practices were no different.
As a ‘health service’, a small percentage of dentists (including ourselves) were able to stay open in a very limited capacity to help treat emergency patients as well as handling phone calls and giving advice to patients. We have been resourceful during this time and used modern technologies to facilitate video consultations with patients to help provide enhanced remote care for those that need it too.
Latest Government Advice Regarding Dentists
In England, all Dental practices have been allowed to reopen from the 8th of June, providing they adhere to appropriate social distancing and put into place the appropriate safety measures. This therefore requires dental surgeries to obtain the correct personal protective equipment (PPE) which is not readily available at the moment and will likely result in a staggered and delayed opening for many.
It is also the right of the individual practice to decide when they are ready to open and as keen as they are to start providing care for their patients as soon as possible they will need to ensure that PPE, safety, hygiene and social distancing measures are all in place and will be effective once they reopen.
As well as being in such close proximity to patients there is also the issue of AGP’s or ‘aerosol generating procedures’, the use of which can cause potentially infectious airborne particles to come into contact with surfaces and people. In order to mitigate the risk of transmission via airborne particles, we have invested in sophisticated mechanical ventilation systems to increase the flow of fresh air into the surgeries and increase the rate of air turnover between patients. This, in combination with appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and hygienic protocols, will mean that we are able to function close to full capacity and will continue to offer the full suite of procedures and treatment methods that our patients have come to expect!
What Might You Expect from Your Dental Appointment
When you come for your next appointment you can expect to see a few changes to the way that we work. These will vary depending on the individual dental surgery and you should be advised ahead of your appointment what you will need to do and what it might entail.
These changes could include;
Waiting or Queuing Safely
Where possible, dentists might be able to accommodate patients inside within their waiting room as long as a 2m distance is maintained. However, it is very likely that similar to the way that shops now ask you to queue outside, small practices may have to ask patients to wait outside if they reach their limit until you are called for your appointment. Patients might also be asked to wait in their car and only approach the practice 1 minute before their appointment time to help effectively stagger patients. There will of course be exceptions for those that are elderly or not able to stand for a long period of time.
Your dental practice may have a different set up to what you are used to in order to allow for patients to come in one entrance and leave through another, you might be in a different room to what you are used to in order for them to be alternated and be deep cleaned on certain days. Protective screens at reception desks, contactless payment and hand cleaning stations can also be expected.
You are probably used to your dentist having a welcoming chat with you and asking about your dental health before you proceed to sit in the chair and the examination begins. This part shouldn’t change that much but instead of seeing your dentist’s friendly face they will have to wear the correct PPE equipment whilst you are in the room. This might include a gown, gloves, mask and face shield to help protect them and you as much as possible during the appointment.
I Need Dental Advice, What Should I Do?
If you are experiencing dental pain or issues that require attention, then please follow the advice below;
– If your dental problem becomes a life-threatening emergency, e.g. airway restriction, vision changes, rapidly increased swelling around the throat or eye then contact 111 immediately to seek professional medical advice and access emergency attention.
– If you have the following – swelling, prolonged bleeding following an extraction, dental trauma without loss of consciousness, a broken tooth causing severe pain, a severe toothache affecting your sleep and ability to eat or drink then contact your dentist to make a request for an urgent appointment.
– If you are experiencing a minor toothache, lost fillings, orthodontic issues and similar problems that don’t cause significant discomfort then read our ‘home advice’ information pages for tips on how you can best treat at home until you can visit your dentist.
– Some dentists are able to offer video consultations to patients, helping to provide care to those who need it who are unable to visit the practice themselves due to the Covid-19 restrictions.
When is Sharrow Dental Opening?
We are back to normal services already. Our dental practice has been following the government advice closely throughout the pandemic and will continue to do so in order to help keep both our employees and our patients safe.
For more information regarding our Essex Dental practice Covid-19 advice please click here.