If you received an email from your dentist in late March outlining that they would be closing down, you are not alone. Local practices were told to suspend routine face to face services on March 25th; the new approach was not only the result of increased social distancing, but also re-allocating critical resources to front line health workers treating Covid-19. While oral health is vital to overall health and well-being, the decision is particularly challenging for those with complex dental needs or requiring emergency treatment. So — what does the ‘new normal’ look like for dental patients?
A dentist now cannot practice without full PPE — including a respiratory face mask that meets medical grade standards. The dawn of Coronavirus has forced dental practices across the globe to stop working. The impact has been mitigated in part by the establishment or urgent dental care hubs (UDC). These have been designed to provide emergency treatment for those with urgent needs: cracked teeth, gum infections, and facial swelling amongst others. These are being run by appointment only and to access one you need to have been triaged — digitally — by a regular dental practice. Many dentists have been redeployed to work at UDC’s, however a critical lack of PPE is fatally undermining their ability to treat patients while at the same time protecting themselves and their families. The chair of the British Dental Association (BDA) Mark Armstrong states that:
“Many dentists have been redeployed, only to find their hands tied by a critical shortage of kit, and delays in training and fit-testing. The depth of these problems will fatally undermine any progress on getting this network up and running.”
Over half (54%) of dentists in England say that PPE shortages are hampering efforts to treat patients at UDC hubs, according to a survey carried out by the BDA. Many of these dentists were quick to donate their PPE to the NHS when it was most needed. The consequent lack of it, however, presents a whole host of problems: patients unable to undergo emergency treatments, dentists at risk of contracting Covid-19, and accordingly the compounding of oral/general health problems that have either been left untreated or taken into people’s own hands at home. This presents a bleak outlook as we begin to tip-toe out of lockdown.
Ahead of being asked to go back to work on May 11th, dentists in France have posted naked photos of themselves on social media to draw attention to their need for PPE. The metaphor needs limited explanation… with the hashtag #dentistesapoil, the posts have quickly gone viral with over 175 dentists participating. This has stimulated the French government to say it will supply an additional 150,000 masks to protect them, however dentists have warned it’s not enough, providing only three per dentist. Additionally, the masks have gone up in price and can no longer be pre-ordered via normal supply chains.
The bottom line is that most dentists have donated their PPE to hospitals. In order to practice again safely — protecting both patients and themselves — they need sufficient supplies. At Floe Oral Care we recognise the importance of this, and are therefore seeking financial donations to purchase PPE from our suppliers and distribute them to Urgent Dental Care hubs. If you would like to contribute please click here. Any support is much appreciated.
In the meantime, what can we be doing to look after our teeth in lockdown, in the absence of routine trips to the dentist? Now more than ever it is important to to have the right habits in place to prevent complications, at a time when emergency treatments may prove elusive. See below for our essential tips and guidance:
“Simple but essential. Brush once in the morning and once in the evening.. from dawn till dusk. Whilst many things have changed beyond belief in the last couple of months, brushing alone will still not clean in between your teeth. Daily flossing is vital to remove interdental plaque and avoid infection, and now is as good a time as any to make this into a lasting habit.”
“Now is not the time to be switching to a fluoride free toothpaste or experimenting with a herbal alternative. Fluoride makes teeth stronger and actively helps prevent tooth decay. At Floe we also include hydroxyapatite in our toothpastes to further strengthen enamel. This is particularly vital given the increase in lockdown snacking.”
“Our teeth did not evolve to be continuously attacked by acid — finding a fruit tree was a rare privilege. Nowadays we have a limitless supply of sugary foods that increase acid level in the mouth and accelerate tooth decay. Therefore we recommend limiting sugary foods, fruits, and snacks to mealtimes, ideally just before brushing, and keep snacks in between these meals sugar-free”
If you have severe pain, you should call your dentist and ask for advice. You will likely be prescribed antibiotics or strong pain killers. Until you are able to collect these medicines, you are advised to take a combination of paracetamol and Ibuprofen, according to the medication instructions. If you are exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms or you suffer from stomach problems, you should not take ibuprofen. If you can’t reach your dentist click on this link
If you have any additional questions or are unable to find a dentist please email us at email@example.com and we will do our best to assist you.