Coronavirus: Dentists' plea to reopen surgeries in Wales

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DentistImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Routine dental appointments may not happen until next year

Dental health in Wales faces an "impending disaster" unless surgeries reopen, a dentist has warned in a letter to the first minister.

Cardiff dentist Dr Charlie Stephanakis said his plea on behalf of about 500 Welsh colleagues reflected mounting concerns for patients.

Dentists in England can reopen from Monday, but in Wales a phased approach will begin in July.

The Welsh Government said reinstating services needed to be "gradual".

Routine appointments have been postponed since the start of lockdown, but in that time dentists in Wales have seen 11,500 people in practices for urgent care and provided 140,000 consultations over the phone or using video services.

From July patients will be able to be assessed for urgent care at their practices, but those requiring invasive procedures such as high-speed drilling will still be referred to specialist 'Urgent Dental Care' centres.

Under the phased guidelines set out by Wales' chief dental officer, Colette Bridgman, routine assessments and care will only be reinstated between January and March 2021.

But in his open letter to Mark Drakeford, Dr Stephanakis said without action "we are facing the long-term degradation of the oral health of the population of Wales".

The dentist said keeping surgeries closed following the coronavirus lockdown in Wales had led to several issues, including:

  • An increase in patients with untreated acute dental problems
  • An increase of urgent dental related hospital admissions
  • Loss of teeth due to uncontrolled chronic disease, decline in dental health and mental health issues

He has called for urgent meetings with the Welsh Government to seek a way forward.

The British Dental Association, which represents the health sector, said there was a "great, growing demand" for swifter action before 2021.

A Welsh Government spokesman said: "We share dentists' concerns and recognise routine care cannot be postponed indefinitely.

"We have published our plan for the reinstatement of services but this needs to be a cautious and gradual approach, taking into consideration the risk of aerosol generating procedures (AGPs) on Covid-19 transmission.

"There is a need to balance the oral health needs of patients against the need to protect patients, dental teams and communities in Wales from coronavirus."

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