The Covid-19 global pandemic has impacted the UK dental sector in countless ways over the past few months. In March this year, NHS England issued a statement to the dental industry which explained the new measures that were put in place to keep both patients and dental workers safe during the pandemic. One of the measures that were to be taken included delaying any elective visits and only carrying out urgent procedures via Local Urgent Dental Care Systems. This decision stemmed from the need to not only protect dental staff as well as patients but help sustain personal protective equipment (PPE) as well. As the Covid-19 pandemic continued to gain momentum, however, the need to provide non-emergency dental care was also recognized. Although dental practices across the country started to reopen for basic routine care on 8 June, it was not quite business as usual for dental practices who were forced to shut their doors in March.
Dental facilities need to be adequately prepared
“The Covid-19 global pandemic has impacted the UK dental sector in countless ways over the past few months. In March this year, NHS England issued a statement to the dental industry which explained the new measures that were put in place to keep both patients and dental workers safe during the pandemic. “
The adequate preparation of all dental facilities can go a long way in preventing Covid-19 contamination in the sector. There are a variety of steps that can be taken to ensure that all facilities are as conducive to health and safety as possible. This includes ensuring staff and patients follow respiratory and hand hygiene etiquette while adhering to all triage processes. Other seemingly basic yet effective measures to be taken include placing all chairs in waiting areas 2 meters apart, removing all objects such as magazines and toys that are frequently handled by many people, and overall decreasing the number of people in the waiting area at any given time. This is best achieved by allowing patients to wait outside in their vehicle and by reducing any overlapping dental appointments between practitioners.
Patient management requires extensive adaptation
According to the NHS, dental settings have to make a concerted effort to provide necessary services without comprising the health and safety of patients and personnel alike. Older adults are typically more prone to gingivitis, cavities, and other dental concerns. They are also more at risk for severe illness from Covid-19. Where possible, prevent the onset of dental concerns by encouraging patients to adhere to a thorough dental routine that includes frequent brushing and flossing. Where professional intervention cannot be avoided, telephonic screening and triaging measures should be implemented. Even if it is not enforced by the state, all patients and those accompanying them should wear masks. Also, ensure that all patients are screened for Covid-19 symptoms by taking their temperature and asking them a range of pertinent questions.
Dental procedures should be adapted accordingly
While the pandemic continues to cause widespread disorder, dental procedures have to be modified in order to reduce the risk of contamination. Dental aerosolization poses an increased threat as far as Covid-19 is concerned and will continue to do so until a cure or vaccine has been developed. For this reason, aerosol-generating procedures, including those making use of ultrasonic scalers and air-water syringes, should be avoided at all costs. If aerosol-generating procedures cannot be avoided, four-handed dentistry together with high evacuation suction and dental dams must be utilized in order to reduce aerosol and droplet spatter.
While it may still be some time before the dental sector will be able to resume their pre-coronavirus practices, they are slowly adapting to a new normal. As long a strict safety precautions are adhered to, both dental staff and patients can reduce their contamination risk significantly.