Coronavirus: Dental practices to reopen from 8 June

Dental practices in England have been told they can reopen from Monday, 8 June, if they put in place appropriate safety measures.

All routine dental care in England has been suspended since 25 March.

The British Dental Association (BDA) has welcomed the announcement but says key questions remain.

Currently, any patient with an emergency dental problem is supposed to be referred to an Urgent Dental Care (UDC) hub for treatment.

In a letter to all practices, NHS England's chief dental officer, Sara Hurley, said: "Today, we are asking that all dental practices commence opening from Monday, 8 June for all face-to-face care, where practices assess that they have the necessary IPC and PPE requirements in place."

The BDA said that while dentists would be relieved by the announcement, the ability of practices to reopen would depend on the availability of personal protective equipment (PPE).

"It is right to allow practices to decide themselves when they are ready to open. Dentists will be keen to start providing care as soon as is safely possible, but we will need everyone to be patient as practices get up and running," said BDA chairman Mick Armstrong.

"Dentists can open their doors but won't be able to provide a full range of care without the necessary kit. Longer term, practices can only stay afloat with ongoing support, while social distancing continues and the costs of providing care are sky high."

What is the current situation with dentists?

At the moment any patient with an emergency dental problem is supposed to be referred to an Urgent Dental Care (UDC) hub. More than 550 of these centres have been created to provide emergency treatment while meeting social distancing requirements.

However, the BDA has previously warned about problems with the UDC hubs, including PPE shortages, which has left many patients going untreated.

Official data shows there were 12,010 dental practices in the UK in 2017. According to NHS England, almost half of all adults were seen by an NHS dentist in the 24 months up to 31 December 2019.

How will going to the dentist be different?

Going to the dentist is likely to be a very different experience once practices reopen.

Ms Hurley has also written to dentists about the sort of measures practices will need to consider before reopening, including:

  • Limiting use of waiting areas, with patients waiting outside if they arrive early
  • Waiting rooms chairs spaced 2m apart
  • Screening staff on a daily basis
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