Today, practices across England have started to reopen their doors to patients as they prepare to offer treatment in the face of COVID-19.
Many have breathed a sigh of relief this morning as they get back into work to start treating patients face-to-face for the first time in 11 weeks.
Last week, England’s CDO Sara Hurley published the new standard operating procedure that practices will need to follow in the new climate.
We’ve spoken to dental professionals to see how they are feeling as they reopen their practices to the public.
Set the bar
Dr Nilesh Parmar, of Parmar Dental, is excited to get back to work – and says nerves are to be expected.
‘I think it’s natural to have some trepidation returning back to work after so much time away,’ he said.
‘Personally, I’m looking forward to it. Cross infection is something that dental practices excel at.
‘It comes natural to us and we have always set the bar when it comes to safe working environments. It will be good to see my team and start helping patients back to full dental health.’
Dental nurse Daryl Schneider said things are going to be ‘extremely different’ but has confidence in dental teams.
‘As everyone knows, things are going to be extremely different now. Massive changes have been put into place to protect us all,’ she said.
‘I feel extremely positive to be going back into practice from today. As long as we all follow guidance and updates regularly, following 2m social distancing where we can and do what’s expected of us, there should be no way we will put one another in danger.
‘Everyone is a team and will continue to work as a team and protect each other.
‘I’m glad to go back to work knowing I’m helping to make a difference to patients who need our help as well as helping practices.
‘I’m proud to be a dental professional at a time like this.’
And Dr Keely Thorne advised colleagues to be kind to themselves as they adjust to the ‘new normal’.
‘I’m feeling a lot of mixed emotions as we head back into practice,’ she said.
‘I’m glad to be getting back to the patients that need us. But I know with all of the new protocols things are going to feel very different.
‘Change can make us feel quite anxious to begin with, but we will hopefully quickly get used to it. Just like at the beginning of lockdown as practices closed – we all panicked initially but soon settled in to our new temporary ‘normal’.
‘Be kind to yourself and those around you if some things don’t go to plan today. We’re all learning and it’s new to everyone – you can only do your best. Remember, we’re all in the same boat.’
‘Unprecedented’ access troubles
However, not all practices will be back up and running, with some experiencing PPE, finance and fit-testing troubles.
Today, the BDA sent across an open letter to Matt Hancock calling for immediate support. The organisation argues it is essential if practices are to avoid a collapse in patient access.
BDA chair Mick Armstrong said: ‘Today, high street dentistry was meant to start resuming across England. The reality couldn’t be further from the truth.
‘Few practices have opened their doors, and those that did were operating at a fraction of their pre-pandemic capacity.
‘The Health Secretary must now take responsibility to avert the existential crisis facing a service struggling with sky-high costs and radically reduced patient numbers.
‘For years, communities from Cornwall to Cumbria struggled to get appointments but were ignored.
‘Without action from this government access problems – on an unprecedented scale – are going to be visited on millions of patients, in every part in England.’
Additionally, the BDA argues industry sources estimate PPE costs for certain treatments have skyrocketed by up to 6000%.
More views from the profession
Dr Hemani Gill said: ‘I’m looking forward to going back into practice. I have worked the last ten weeks doing telephone emergency triaging and have found it frustrating not being able to physically help my patients.
‘As dentists, our natural instincts mean that we find it difficult to see our patients in pain and discomfort. Although we’ll have the added pressures of PPE and new guidance, at least we can get on track with helping the nation get out of pain.
‘We’re a resilient profession and I’m sure we’ll get through this bump in the road.’
And Dr Avik Dandapat added: ‘Today is our first day – I was a little nervous but happy to be back. After a mad rush for PPE and getting SOPs in place, at least we are here and seeing some basic emergencies.’
Find out more about Dentistry’s Back to Practice campaign.