Welsh dentists call for earlier start dates for routine care to prevent backlogs

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Dentists in Wales are calling for routine services to resume earlier to prevent a major backlog.

Wales’ chief dental officer, Dr Colette Bridgman has confirmed that gradual steps will be taken to reopen dental clinics, but dentists are worried that patients could be waiting for routine treatments for up to a year.

Lowri Leeke, a practice owner from Merthyr Tydfil, is one of many Welsh dentists urging the government to permit a speedier return to ‘normal.’ It is anticipated that it could be 2021 before routine treatments, such as fillings, are available to patients. Ms Leeke is concerned that people who are currently experiencing early signs of decay will continue to see a deterioration, with holes in the teeth getting “bigger and worse.” Until routine services are up and running again, dentists are extremely limited in terms of who they can treat, and there is a risk that standards of oral health will decline in the coming months. 

Since the lockdown began, Ms Leeke and her team have been seeing a handful of emergency patients for extraction procedures. Being unable to offer a more diverse range of treatments and limiting patient numbers is going to be difficult for both the staff and patients. Talking about the situation, Ms Leeke said that some patients have already been waiting for treatment since February, and insisted that she felt her team was ready and able to welcome more patients back. Dentists are used to working with stringent infection control guidelines and policies in place and they are also accustomed to wearing gloves, masks and visors. 

The approach to easing lockdown is slightly different in Wales to England, and dentists are working to a phased plan, which currently indicates that routine services will not resume until January 2021. The first stage will be to maintain urgent dental centres with patients reassessed in their regular practices. 

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