BDA Wales is calling for the relaxation of COVID rules to avoid patients unnecessarily losing teeth and allow more dental check-ups.
Russell Gidney, chair of the BDA’s Welsh General Dental Practice Committee, says delays will mean tooth decay, gum disease and cancers will go unspotted.
He highlights strict hygiene measures and fallow time reducing opportunities to see non-urgent patients. Dr Gidney points out it means minor issues are often not treated until the patient presents with pain and then requires major procedures.
‘By the time it causes problems, we are often talking towards root fillings or teeth coming out,’ Dr Gidney told the BBC. ‘Then you’ve got things like gum disease or cancer, where there can be no symptoms.
‘The only time you really get symptoms with gum disease is when the teeth have already come loose. By that stage it’s already too late.
‘It might mean people end up losing teeth that we could save [if caught earlier].’
NHS dentistry levels
The Welsh government says it provided health boards with £450,000 to provide improved ventilation to dental practices.
Despite this, dental treatment claims up to December 2020 are around a third of the level they were pre-pandemic.
Dr Gidney says Wales should lift the strict hygiene measures following so many vaccinations.
‘Since the beginning of the pandemic, dentists have seen more than 1.5m people and provided 350,000 consultations remotely, via phone or video services,’ a spokesperson for the Welsh government said.
‘Dentistry has been one of the most challenging services for us to deliver during the pandemic. This is due to aerosol generating procedures such as fillings. As well as the need for dentists to be in such close proximity to the patient which requires enhanced PPE.’
Fallow time changes
This comes after chief dental officer for England, Sara Hurley, announced new changes to fallow time requirements in England earlier this month.
Fallow time following an aerosol-generating procedure (AGP) is no longer needed for successive appointments involving members of the same household.
However the CDO advises the carrying out of disinfection and cleaning of the environment between patients living together.
Announcing the change, Sara said: ‘There has been a minor change to dentistry’s infection prevention control guidance. Post AGP down time (fallow time) is not considered necessary for successive appointments between members of the same household.
‘To minimise aerosol spread dentists should use mitigating measures such as high volume suction/rubber dam.
‘Carry out cleaning and disinfection of the environment between patients of the same household; separate high risk patients by space or time from other patients.’
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