Dentistry during Covid-19: FAQs
As we continue to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic, we continue to hear questions about NHS Dentistry.
To help answer some of these questions, NHS North West have shared the following FAQs. Take a look below for more information.
Emergency Dental Care
Emergency dental care will always be available in Lancashire.
People needing emergency dental care for facial swelling, restricting breathing or swallowing, swelling extending to the eye, major facial injuries, and bleeding from the mouth, should either attend their local A&E or call NHS111.
Urgent Dental Care
Urgent dental care will always be available in Lancashire. During the COVID-19 pandemic this will be provided through a network of NHS commissioned Urgent Dental Care Centres (UDCs).
For urgent dental care, which consists of mouth injuries including fractured teeth, facial swelling that is significant and worsening, severe dental or facial pain that cannot be controlled by the patient, dental and mouth infections, suspected mouth cancer, and dental conditions that may affect a serious medical condition, residents should either contact their regular dentist, or contact:
- For Lancashire residents – Lancashire Dental Helpline on – 0300 1234010.
There is further information here.
Following contact with the dental helpline, a dentist may speak to the patient (or carer) over the phone to work out what the problem is. They may offer some advice and issue a prescription. If the patient needs a face-to-face dental appointment, the dentist may either see the individual themselves, or refer the patient to attend another dental practice in Lancashire and South Cumbria. The range of treatments offered at this time will be appropriate for the patient’s needs, and not limited to extractions only.
When patients are referred for a face-to-face appointment, they will be allocated to the closest UDC which is suitable to deliver the type of care the patient needs, considering their medical history. This may mean patients need to travel further than expected and be treated by a dentist. They may also be treated by a dentist that they do not know.
Patients attending NHS dental services will be required to pay a standard charge for NHS dental treatment, unless they are exempt from charges. For further information, click here.
Routine Dental Care
At times during the COVID-19 pandemic when there are no restrictions, routine NHS dental care will be carried out by a dentist who residents have a previous relationship with, or one which is accepting new NHS patients. Residents can find a new dentist via the nhs.uk website.
Residents should contact their regular dentist directly, through a telephone call or email, to make any routine dental appointment. It is important to note that they should not attend a dental practice without an agreed appointment, as there may be some special instructions for patients that they need to receive before arriving at the practice.
The dentist may feel that it is appropriate to only offer advice, or advice and a prescription. If this is necessary, it will be in line with best current practice
During the COVID-19 pandemic several extra measures have been needed to ensure patient safety. Dentists may be less likely to accept new patients for routine NHS care. There may be longer waiting times between booking and attending the appointment than is usually expected, also, dentists may not be able to see their patients within their anticipated timescales for regular ‘check-up’ appointments. Routine dental care, including repair of fractured dentures, may always not be available to all patients from the practice that they regularly attend.
If the dentist feels it is appropriate to offer advice over the phone, they may prescribe medication or antibiotics ‘remotely’. This prescription will need to be collected or be delivered from a pharmacy. Patients should be aware that antibiotics are not always the appropriate treatment for toothache.
Attending a dental practice during the ongoing pandemic may mean that patients need to be flexible with appointment times. Dental practices will work to ensure appropriate social distancing. The dental practice may ask that patients wait outside/wait elsewhere prior to the appointment. Once within the dental surgery, there may be longer waiting times in the practice due to new infection-control procedures. Some additional measures may include toilet facilities not being available. Patients may be asked to use hand gel when they enter the practice. They may be asked to leave the practice through an alternative exit.
When attending the dentist, staff might be wearing different equipment to that which is usually expected. It is important to note that any changes are to ensure a safe working environment for both patients and staff.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, all residents should be reassured that they can seek dental care if they feel a need to.
Important advice for patients on self-care
It is really important that people always have healthy mouths, but it is particularly important during the COVID-19 pandemic.
For people with natural teeth, the best way to prevent any dental problems is to brush teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, once at bedtime and once at one other time.
For those who wear any dentures (removable false teeth), these should be removed at least once a day, and cleaned with a soft toothbrush, warm water and a non-abrasive denture cleaner.
Maintaining a healthy diet is important for general health, as well as maintaining a healthy mouth. Sugars which are added to foods (for example fizzy drinks and yoghurts), and those in fruit juices and syrups, are responsible for causing cavities in teeth. Residents should try to limit the intake of foods which contain sugar to meal times.
Excess alcohol can also erode the outer surface of the teeth, and is implicated in the development of oral cancers. Try to limit alcohol intake to 14 units a week, over 3 or more days.
Smoking damages the mouth and lungs and can cause cancers and gum disease. No amount of smoking is safe and all smokers should be advised to quit. Smokers who also drink excessively are at the highest risk of developing oral cancers.
Suspected Oral Cancer
Early detection, and treatment or oral cancer, is very important for the best possible outcomes for patients.
Oral cancers are more common in those who smoke and drink alcohol but are also linked to Human Papilloma Virus, which can be spread by sexual contact. Oral cancers can occur in anyone of any age.
Ulcers that do not heal for 2 to 3 weeks, persistent lumps in the mouth and neck, difficulty swallowing, changes to voice sound, numbness or bleeding in the mouth, unexplained mobility of teeth, issues moving the jaw, red or white patches inside the mouth or dentures (removable false teeth) which suddenly become poorly fitting may all be signs of oral cancer. If residents may have an any of these signs or symptoms, they should contact their dentist or the appropriate Dental Helpline.
- For Lancashire residents – Lancashire Dental Helpline – 03001234010