Dental patients face lengthy waits, as Covid-19 lockdowns contribute to 10 million cancelled appointments

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Dental patients in the UK face a lengthy wait to see a dentist, after Coronavirus lockdowns contributed to the cancellation of 10 million appointments. 

The British Dental Association (BDA) has warned that it could take months, or even years to clear the backlog, with patients likely to be waiting for a long time for routine services, such as check-ups. 

Many dental practices have been up and running since June, but there are currently stringent restrictions in place, which limit the range of services available and the number of appointments on offer. Most clinics are running a reduced service and restricting access in line with social distancing and infection control guidelines. With dentists seeing fewer patients, and practices closed for several weeks between March and June, backlogs are substantial. Appointments for routine services have been postponed from March, and the majority of teams are currently working to see patients with the most urgent needs. 

The BDA believes that around 10 million appointments have been cancelled or postponed since lockdown began, with check-ups, fillings and extractions put on the back-burner. While practices were closed during lockdown, urgent hubs provided emergency treatment, but only those who required immediate assistance for complex or severe dental issues were able to see a dentist. 

As well as impacting standards of oral health among adults, the suspension of routine and non-emergency services is likely to have a negative effect on children’s dental health. Campaigners have warned that rates of decay could rise in the coming months. Tooth decay is already the leading cause of hospital admissions among children in the UK.

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