Published: 06:00, 07 May 2020
People across Kent will struggle to book an appointment at under-pressure dental surgeries once they reopen, a practitioner warns.
Dentists across the UK have urged the government to allow practices to be among the first facilities to be brought back into action due to the huge backlog of appointments.
Some toothache sufferers have even resorted to DIY dentistry and attempted to fashion homemade fillings as a result of the lack of professional help.
Dr Ryan Abbasi, who works at the Centre for Dentistry in east Kent, is predicting tough months ahead for everyone wanting their teeth checked.
He admits he finds it hard to envisage routine dentistry returning to normal by the end of the year.
“My diary was fully booked three months in advance and that was before the crisis occurred,” he said.
“For a fully private dentist to be so busy, that is unusual. Right now, people are looking left, right and centre for help.
“I’d like to get back to work so I can help them. Some are in pain..."
“People are contacting me through social media, even through my mum’s social media, saying we know your son is a dentist.
“I’d like to get back to work so I can help them. Some are in pain.
“The only thing I can do right now is either give them advice over the phone or prescribe them antibiotics, which isn’t helpful for most toothache-related problems - it’s simply buying time.”
If a dentist believes a patient needs to be treated urgently, they can refer them to a dedicated urgent dental care hub, usually situated within a hospital.
The Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust, which runs dentistry services across the county, says patients will be contacted regarding rebooking appointments once the surgeries are reopen - though a timeframe for reopening remains completely unknown.
Thanet-based Dr Abbasi, who hasn’t picked up a drill since mid-March, imagines there being strict guidelines in place, potentially causing months of delays in non-urgent appointments.
“It’s a safe bet that until this virus is completely under control, we’ll need to prioritise issues such as urgent needs and people in pain - it will be needs as opposed to wants,” he said.
“I’m awaiting further announcements, but it’s difficult to imagine routine dentistry returning to normal by the end of the year. I think we will need to define a new ‘normal’ in dentistry.”
He says it is also likely the government will insist dentists only see one or two patients an hour, giving time to rigorously clean between appointments.
“Everything is sterilised as standard anyway, but we would need extra time to disinfect everything,” he said.
“It’s prudent to do this and I would want my patients to be as safe as possible.”
Anyone in pain or with swelling is asked to call their normal practice as usual or to contact NHS111.
More by this authorMarijke Hall