Dentists warn poorer patients in Scotland will lose their teeth under Covid-19 restrictions

Dentists at workDentists at work
Dentists at work
Dentists have warned of a 'private only' system due to coronavirus - with poorer patients resigned to missing teeth if restrictions on practices are not lifted.

Professor Phil Taylor, from the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, said the profession had been 'uniquely disadvantaged', with a lack of support from the Scottish Government.

He said restrictions over treatments, costs for PPE, and other practice safeguards had left dentists with 'no option' but to offer private treatments to stay afloat.

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The use of aerosol generating procedures is still restricted which means non-urgent treatments involving high-speed dental drills used to prepare teeth for most permanent fillings and crowns are still not possible.

Prof Phil TaylorProf Phil Taylor
Prof Phil Taylor

Prof Taylor warned if restrictions are not lifted, NHS contracts could fail leaving 'those who cannot afford treatment resigned to missing teeth and dentures.' He said it was 'beggars belief' pubs had been offered a lifeline but not dentists.

Prof Taylor said: "It seems that dentistry has been uniquely disadvantaged through the pandemic versus other primary care services due to the lack of meaningful support for the sector.

"It is hugely discouraging for dentists to be expected to abide by the same rules and regulations set out for NHS dentistry in their private practice.

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"Those rules and the consequent increase in practice overheads for PPE and practice alterations for additional patient safety have served to restrict the vast majority of NHS treatment, meaning dentists have no option but to offer private treatment to stay in business.

"Far from being 'greedy', this is the only way they can offer the necessary treatment to patients based on current rules, and the only way they can survive financially.

"If the Scottish Government does not ease restrictions on the use of aerosol generating procedures in NHS treatment, they are essentially allowing NHS dentistry contracts to fail, and are supporting the collapse of NHS dentistry in Scotland.

"We could come out of this pandemic with a private-only system.

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"We will then be faced with a situation where the nation's oral health goes back in time, with those who cannot afford treatment resigned to missing teeth and dentures.

"While it's absolutely right that major industries like this are given assistance, it's beggars belief that pubs should be offered a lifeline but key healthcare providers are not."

Iain Gray, Labour MSP for East Lothian, said "an impasse" on PPE had led to a situation where patients are being told they can be treated privately but not on the NHS.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: "We understand these are uncertain times for dentistry and have put in place a range of financial support measures.

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"Prior to the Covid-19 emergency, dental practices were required to purchase their PPE from commercial suppliers.

"We've worked with NHS Scotland procurement teams to ensure a robust and sustainable supply of PPE is available to NHS dental practices free of charge throughout the NHS Remobilisation Plan, including enhanced PPE to dental practices for Aerosol Generating Procedures (AGPs).

"We are investing an additional £2.75 million per month.

"This means we are making exceptional payments to the value of £12m per month to support NHS dental incomes."

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