On 23rd March 2020 we were forced to close our doors to all our valued patients after 30 years of providing a professional, safe and caring service within our private dental practice. As you may be aware the decision for closure was taken in the face of a global pandemic caused by a previously unknown coronavirus (SARS-Cov-2), which is still threatening lives and livelihoods, but at the time of writing, the transmission rates in the UK are now thankfully in rapid decline.
In England, the recommendation to close down Dental Services was made by England’s Chief Dental Officer (an employee of the NHS) and taken largely to (1) preserve inadequate NHS national supplies of PPE (personal protective equipment) and (2) re-deploy some NHS dental staff into the inadequately staffed medical sector.
NHS dentists and their practices have fortunately been financially compensated by the government for the duration of this enforced closure and re-deployment, and whilst we are immensely grateful and proud of the efforts of all NHS workers, including our own re-deployed dental colleagues, as a private dental practice without any financial assistance or options to ‘re-deploy’, the differences could not be more stark.
In general, private dental practices cannot financially weather the storm of closure for much longer, but more importantly, we cannot and should not unnecessarily neglect our patients, particularly those in pain or those with deteriorating dental, periodontal and oral health. Provision of emergency dental services ‘hubs’ within the NHS during this pandemic have been limited, difficult to access and made little or no provision for patients from private dental practices.
Therefore, we are keenly and diligently following all and any advice or guidance from The Government, Public Health England, the Health & Safety Executive, the Chief Dental Officer for England and our ‘Regulators’ the General Dental Council and the Care Quality Commission. In addition, there are a number of professional task-groups pressing for this guidance, to enable us to open at the earliest and safest time for our staff and patients. At the time of writing there is no evidence of Covid-19 transmission within dentistry; the USA, Australia & European countries have reopened dental services and Germany never ceased.
We are constantly reassessing all the information available from multiple sources including independent-dentist task groups and hope to reopen very soon.
However, before we do, we would like to take this opportunity to reassure you that we will be going ‘above-and-beyond’ what we anticipate may be asked of us to adapt to the ‘new normal’ that Covid-19 has forced upon us all, with our prime goal always being the health, safety and well-being of staff and patients.
As Covid-19 is a ‘new’ disease, our understanding and information is constantly evolving; we believe it is transmitted by direct contact and inhalation, through aerosol, saliva and mucous membranes (linings of nose and mouth).
Although we can say with great confidence that we already work within an exceptionally clean and safe environment, with no evidence of disease transmission within dental settings, we cannot, of course, control everything and everyone coming in, so we will be introducing a few new, extra measures to reduce risks of transmission or cross-infection to as low as is practicably possible.
Dentistry itself cannot be achieved at a ‘social distance’ so when we call you to arrange your appointment, we will explain our new strategy for working safely which will encompass some new measures, but be broadly as follows:
- We will take a detailed medical history noting your ‘Covid-19 status’ (ie any known exposure, illness or testing) and update your records over the telephone.
- We will ask you to please NOT attend your appointment if you or members of your household subsequently become unwell; please stay at home until you are tested and/or have a diagnosis. The symptoms of Covid-19 are varied and constantly expanding; they include fever, fatigue/extreme tiredness, headache, muscle/joint pain, sore throat, loss of smell or taste, sore eyes, nasal discharge, dry cough, breathlessness, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea.
- We will ask you to arrive for your appointment unaccompanied (unless you need a chaperone) and to bring in the bare minimum of personal items, (which we will store in a sealed a container for the duration of your appointment).
- We will ask you arrive punctually so you can enter our surgery immediately, so avoiding the waiting room & restroom (if you need to use the restroom please speak with a member of staff first).
- We will take your temperature at the door entrance then ask you to kindly wash your hands in the surgery before seating; please note, if your temperature exceeds 37.5 C we will ask you to leave immediately and we will not be able to see you.
- We will ask you to use an anti-viral mouthwash prior to any dental inspection and/or any treatment, and again at the end followed by more hand sanitation.
- We will provide you with a clean mask to wear at completion of your time in the surgery, for whilst you remain in the building and for your journey home.
We may not be able to offer a full range of treatments to begin with, but we very much look forward to seeing everyone again and getting back to a ‘new normal’.