Covid’s impact on dental care
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.
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.