Dentists in England face “critical shortages” of personal protective equipment (PPE), forcing patients with urgent problems to “take charge”, according to an organization representing British dentists.
According to a survey by the British Dental Association (BDA), more than half (54%) of dentists in England say that shortages of PPE hamper patient treatment efforts in emergency dental care (UDC) centers ).
The BDA, which has interviewed a thousand dentists, says a lack of PPE has prevented some UDC centers from currently treating patients. It says that a third of sites in England remain inactive, compared to only 2% in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
In response, the chief dentist of England, Sara Hurley, said that there are now 219 centers open “to provide care to those in need” and that “each center has the appropriate PPE and work is underway to guarantee continued supply. “
What are emergency dental centers?
UDC concentrators are designed to provide emergency dental treatment for patients with urgent needs, such as cracked teeth, gum infections, and facial swelling. Patients requiring emergency treatment are expected to be referred to a UDC center after a telephone consultation with their local dentist.
Local practices have been asked to suspend face-to-face services on March 25 to slow the spread of the coronavirus and create local UDC centers to treat patients with urgent needs.
However, BDA President Mick Armstrong said progress was too slow.
“Many dentists have been redeployed, only to find their hands tied by a critical shortage of kits and delays in training and fit tests. The depth of these problems will inevitably jeopardize any progress in the establishment and operation of this network, ”he said. .
“Frustrating and disappointing”
A dentist, who wanted to remain anonymous, told the BBC that they had been redeployed to a UDC hub in the Midlands. However, they said their center is currently unable to treat patients until a test kit for use on the masks arrives.
“It is frustrating and disappointing when we know there is a significant need for urgent care due to a lack of training and PPE,” they said.
“The test kits are shared across the region and hopped on and off the highway, and we are still awaiting their arrival. “
“But as soon as we have PPE, the hub will be operational.”
Another dentist, based in the south, said that while their center treated patients, they only had 20 days of FFP3 masks left. The FFP3 mask offers one of the highest degrees of protection.
The dentist said they should stop treating patients if they lacked masks and that replacement ones could not be purchased.
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The BDA survey found that two-thirds of dentists at sites in England report a shortage of FFP3 masks and gowns and that 58% of dentists say they do not feel fully protected at their sites.
Dentists say PPE is necessary because they can be as close as 8 inches from patients’ mouths and are therefore at high risk of contracting and spreading Covid-19.
Dr. Michael Ehrlich is a dentist based in an office in Brighouse, West Yorkshire. He says he has been counseling patients over the phone for three weeks.
“A broken tooth, a sharp piece of tooth, a lost crown, they are not urgent but they still cause discomfort. And then there are some things that really need to be seen and sorted out, but right now we have nowhere to send people, “he said.
“He just had to go out”
Aircraft assembler Billy Taylor, 33, of Axminster, Devon, told the BBC he decided to remove his own tooth after feeling “fairly severe” pain over Easter weekend.
“I called my dentist. They said they were closed and would put me on an emergency wait list, but they don’t know how long it would take me to see me, “said Mr. Taylor.
“The pain was absolutely excruciating so I thought I would take it in hand”
Taylor said the DIY extraction took an hour and a half.
“I didn’t say how difficult it would be to remove a molar tooth.”
Kathryn Hey, 47, a teacher from Biddulph, Staffordshire woke up with sudden severe pain on April 2. She says she has not been seen by a dentist despite two phone calls and that she is doing well with pain relievers
“My dental pain is more manageable now, so I’m waiting for the lockout to end before contacting my dentist again,” she said.
“However, I still can’t eat or drink from the side of my tooth, so it affects me every day. “
What happens if you need to see a dentist?
First, patients are advised to call their local office.
If symptoms are severe, local dentists can prescribe medications over the phone (such as pain relievers and antibiotics). In such cases, dentists can contact local pharmacies, who can then prepare medication for the patients to pick up.
If a patient has an urgent dental problem, he should be referred to a UDC center. Other emergency treatments may also be available. For example, some hospitals may offer emergency dental appointments.
However, if a patient cannot reach his local dentist – or is not registered with one – then the advice is to use the 111 online service.