A dentist today urged people not to pull out their own teeth amid frustration at being unable to get face-to-face appointments.
Since the coronavirus lockdown, all routine dental care has been suspended.
Practitioners have instead been giving patients who contact them what is known as the three As – advice, analgesia and antibiotics.
Four weeks into the lockdown, urgent dental hubs were set up for emergencies. However, people must go through their dentist, who will triage them and then decide whether they qualify.
Now Birches Head-based dentist Dr Zoe Wray has voiced the profession’s frustration at not being able to get back to normal practice and treat patients who are in pain.
The owner and principal dentist at Diana Dental said: “People contact me mainly for toothache, pain and swelling. I have been doing the three As and giving out antibiotics.
“There’s a few people who, if a crown has come off, we can’t do anything about that.
“I am getting calls every day and, even when the phones aren’t redirecting to me, I get messages through the night and weekends which I answer back as soon as I can.
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“It is very dangerous to try and pull your own tooth out because if you have any medical conditions you could cause problems. You could end up in a lot worse state.
“You can fracture the tooth and leave the roots in there. You can end up with an infection or bleeding to death, so please don’t do it.
“We want the public to know that we are desperately wanting to work and we are just as upset and frustrated as the public is over not being able to open our practices. We can’t wait to get back.”
Dr Wray pointed out that urgent dental hubs locally are only extracting teeth, so they can’t help if people have lost a filling or need root canal surgery.
It comes amid growing tensions nationally, with the British Association of Private Dentistry (BAPD) tabling a vote of no confidence in the Office of the Chief Dental Officer.
The group claims the lack of clarity over what the pandemic means for dentistry has left the profession ‘at times bewildered and confused as to what the various messages have meant for their patients’.
It is now calling for urgent action and a more coordinated approach, regardless of whether the care is provided via the NHS or privately.
Dr Wray said: “On May 1, the Government produced documentation about which businesses were still closed and which were exempt.
“Dental practices were mentioned as being exempt to closure. Before that, we had been informed that we had to close. The CQC (Care Quality Commission) have recently turned around with a statement to say we didn’t say that you had to shut.
“We got very confused when the CQC issued the statement. The profession as a whole is like who is going to tell us when we can open because the CEO says she only speaks for NHS dentists and a lot of us are mixed NHS and private.
“We are very uncertain as to who is going to tell us when we can open.”
Personal protective equipment has also been an issue for private dental practices and most are having to source their own, which has risen in cost.
Dr Wray claims dental practices have fallen under any help from the Government.
“Dental practices have been offering cross infection control for many years. We are more adept at doing it than some other healthcare professionals because it is our bread and butter day in day out.
“The PPE is something we have always worn and it is going to be important to protect my employees, my staff as well as the patients.
“At the beginning of lockdown, it was said that every dental practice will have PPE delivered, but not one had it delivered.”