30th Nov, 2021

Dentists could face ‘oral health horror show’ as practices reopen, poll suggests

Coventry Editorial 2nd Sep, 2020 Updated: 2nd Sep, 2020

Dentists could be facing an “oral health horror show” as practices reopen, after polling suggested some people have tried pulling their own teeth and treating cavities at home during lockdown.

The Association of Dental Groups (ADG), a sector trade body, claimed its survey uncovered evidence of “DIY dentistry” being undertaken in the UK since March.

Dental practices across the country were forced to close or have their operations restricted as the Covid-19 pandemic struck earlier this year due to the risk of passing the virus through aerosol generating procedures.

Conducting the survey for the ADG, pollster Opinium asked 2,000 British adults if, since March, they, or anyone else in their household, had tried to provide treatments at home.

Respondents to the polling were allowed to select multiple options, with 75% saying they had taken no action at home, and 25% admitting they tried at least one of taking painkillers, attempting to treat a cavity, trying to extract a tooth or some other form of self-care.

A total of 1,502 people selected the option: “No – nobody in my household has tried to provide any dental treatments at home.”

Meanwhile, 234 people selected “painkillers for tooth or gum pain.”

But some 158 individuals selected “attempted to treat a cavity in a tooth” and 153 people selected “attempted to extract a tooth.”

ADG chairman Neil Carmichael said: “Pulling your own teeth out is rarely a good idea as it can damage the surrounding teeth and lead to long-term problems.

“These findings suggest that when routine appointments restart, dentists across the country should brace themselves for an oral health horror show.

“All of the signs are that dentists will be called upon to repair the damage caused by broken and knocked out teeth – on top of a host of other oral health problems that lockdown has been storing up.

“This would be bad enough if we did not already have an access crisis in dentistry with many people struggling to get appointments.

“Ministers must now take urgent action to ensure that we have the NHS dentists we need to deal with what’s around the corner.”

In July, a British Dental Association (BDA) poll of dental practices, found that, of the 2,672 respondents, less than 1% said their practice was operating at the same capacity it did pre-Covid, while 15% said they were operating at between a quarter and half normal capacity.

Dental practices in England were told on March 25 to close and defer routine, non-urgent dental care including orthodontics and to establish remote urgent care services. They were allowed to reopen from early June.

The BDA urged government to support the UK’s 12,000 dental practices who face “a toxic combination of higher costs and lower patient numbers” amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Chair Mick Armstrong said: “The suspension of dental services during lockdown impacted on countless families and saw a return to the sort of ‘DIY dentistry’ that belonged in the Victorian era.

“Practices have reopened, but at a fraction of their former capacity. The result is too many patients still lack options.

“Services depend on long-term support if they’re going to survive the new normal.”

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