Londonderry dentist claims dentistry is in ‘absolute crisis’

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A dentist from Londonderry claims that dentistry is in “absolute crisis” after the pandemic.

Dr Meabh Owens, who runs a dental practice in the city, said that patients are waiting too long for treatment because the demand is simply too high. She has no available appointments to carry out treatment until September and most dentists in the area are in the same boat.

Talking to BBC Radio Foyle, Dr Owens said that the situation has got much worse, as there is a shortage of appointments at a time when more patients are coming forward for treatment. Waiting times are increasing for both health service and private patients.

Dr Owens explained that many patients who need treatment now require multiple appointments, which have to be longer because dentists have to provide more complex treatments. Filling days with complex treatments means that routine checks are unavailable. The lack of access to routine treatment will almost certainly increase the need for more intensive treatment down the line, putting even more pressure on dentists.

Speaking about the situation in the region, Dr Owens said that it is impossible to make NHS dentistry work because Covid has prevented teams from seeing large numbers of patients. Capacities are reduced, patients need more time with their dentist and this means that incomes are falling.

Treatment backlogs are impacting adults and children in Derry. Mother of three, Michelle Barrett has been trying to make an appointment for her middle child for over a year. There are numerous practices nearby, but Michelle said that she can’t get an appointment with them because the backlogs are so big. She resorted to taking her children to a practice in Limavady, which she said wasn’t convenient because she doesn’t drive. She was offered a private appointment close to home, but like most patients, she can’t afford private care.

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