Dentists are fully open and should be operating at normal capacity.
Appointments may be cancelled at short notice due to staff shortages caused by COVID-19.
Is NHS dentistry safe?
NHS dentists across England have been sent a clear message to focus on seeing as many patients as possible. All COVID-19 specific guidance from the NHS and UK government has been removed so dentists can now operate as normal …or take any precautions they feel are necessary.
While private dentists may pass on the cost of any COVID-19 precautions to their patients, NHS dentists are only able to take precautions afforded by their NHS budget and the time available.
The risk with COVID-19 and dentistry
Unlike most other infectious diseases, it is feared that COVID-19 may spread between people in tiny particles of water called aerosols. Aerosols may be generated by common dental procedures such as drilling, scaling/cleaning, blowing cold air and water, and even by coughs and sneezes.
Larger splashes and droplets of water tend to fall to the floor and can be easily cleaned away and disinfected between patients. The much smaller and lighter aerosols can stay in the surgery’s air until the air in the room is changed.
COVID-19 Risk management in dentistry
It is not possible to completely eliminate the risk associated with coronavirus in dentistry.
There are currently no national rules or guidelines in England to guide dentists on how to manage the risk of COVID-19 transmission in dental aerosols. Individual dentists therefore may (or may not) take special precautions within their allocated time and budget.
How and when to see your dentist
Emergency, urgent and routine appointments should now be readily available with NHS dentists. There still may be a longer wait than usual for appointments.
If you are registered with an NHS dentist then it should be fairly easy to get get an appointment. You should be able to book an emergency, urgent and routine appointments with your dentist in the usual ways:
- over the phone
- at the reception desk in the practice
- if your practice has the facility – on your dental practice’s website
If you are not currently registered with an NHS dentist then it will be more difficult to get an appointment.
Routine dental treatment
If you are not registered with a dentist already then you should search for a local NHS dentist. The bad news is that you you may have to travel further than you would like. The restrictions in place to help manage the risk of COVID-19 have reduced the capacity of dental practices, so that most do not have the spare capacity to accept any new patients.
The good news is that dental practices are not restricted by catchment areas so you can register with any NHS dentist accepting new patients. You can also register at more than one practice. So should a more conveniently located practice start to accept new patients in the future, it’s fairly easy to register again.
Registering with a new NHS dentist takes time and so is usually only suitable when you need routine treatment.