Next event:
Stay tuned for our next LIVE event in September 2024

Throughout the pandemic many people have delayed or avoided accessing healthcare – including dental care. Around one in five1 people put off booking an appointment because they didn’t feel safe going to the dentist, despite the vast majority (86%)1 of people saying they felt reassured about infection control measures when they went.

On top of this, strict safety measures which limit the number of patients dentists can see each day, have created challenges across both the NHS and private sector, resulting longer waiting lists for patients needing treatment.

Although the extent of disruption to adult dental services is still not fully known, overall, an estimated 30 million2 appointments have been lost as a result. And statistics published in August show 9 million2 children have missed treatment.

Driving inequalities

There is a danger that this will exacerbate existing inequalities in care for certain groups, particularly where there are gaps in awareness of the importance of oral hygiene. This is underlined by a recent report from Public Health England (PHE), which warned, “oral health inequalities remain a significant public health problem.” 3

The PHE report also references the importance of community interventions to improve oral health — which underlines the positive impacts that can flow from organisations and healthcare partners working together to raise awareness and promote the benefits of prevention.

Practice challenges

A major challenge for all dental practices has been the need for socially distanced waiting areas, additional PPE and ‘fallow’ periods between appointments for any aerosols to settle and for treatment rooms to be sanitised. PPE alone costs £20 to £30 per appointment for any procedure, such as drilling, which disperses aerosols. 4

Dr Neil Sikka, Chief Dental Officer for Bupa UK Insurance, says, “It’s impossible to gauge how long it will take to clear the backlog because we’re still not back to normal, and we don’t know if we will ever get back to normal, especially within the NHS.”

Delays have serious health impacts, too. Apart from untreated dental issues deteriorating, the link between oral health and general health means the ongoing challenges around accessing treatment, could lead to more serious problems.

Content is loading