Dental Tribune Europe

Pandemic leads UK dentists to seek advice in record numbers

By Brendan Day, Dental Tribune International
July 16, 2021

GLASGOW, UK: Changing restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic have regularly affected the scope of work that dental professionals have been allowed to conduct. Understanding exactly which procedures are permitted—and which ones are not—has been a continued challenge. The Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland (MDDUS), one of the leading medical defence organisations in the UK, has announced that it received a record number of inquiries from dentists looking for advice and support during 2020.

In its Annual Report and Accounts 2020, the union reported that written requests for advice from UK-based dental professionals had increased by 83% compared with 2019 and that there had been a 21% increase in advice-related telephone calls. The more frequently discussed topics, according to MDDUS, included the delivery of treatment to patients with acute dental problems during lockdown, the steps required to appropriately and effectively conduct teleconsultations, and the challenges of dealing with non-compliant and confrontational patients when dental practices reopened with certain infection control measures in place.

Despite this support, the continued stress brought on by the pandemic had negatively affected the attitudes of many dental workers towards their own profession, MDDUS noted. In a survey of its members conducted at the end of 2020, 61% admitted that their experiences during the year had tempted them to quit dentistry.

“Dental practice across the UK faced an existential threat to its future at the start of the pandemic,” Dr Stephen Henderson, head of the dental division at MDDUS, said in a press release.

He continued: “The financial impact of closing practices was exacerbated by concerns of the supply and then the safety of PPE. It is no exaggeration to say that 2020 placed the biggest challenge of their careers on the UK’s dental profession.”

“I’m proud of the exceptional effort my team made to support our dental members, the extent of which can be seen in the data published in our annual report,” Henderson concluded.

Face mask use a point of concern

When the UK Government ends almost all COVID-19 restrictions on 19 July, face masks will no longer be legally required in enclosed public spaces in England. According to the BBC, businesses will be able to set their own rules and guidelines for customers, leading major supermarket chains Tesco and Sainsbury’s to announce that they will continue to ask shoppers to wear masks.

In another press release last week, MDDUS reported that the announcement of this easing of restrictions had led to a sharp rise in requests from its dental members, who were primarily seeking clarification on the use of face masks in dental practices. Owing to the concerns raised in these requests, MDDUS has written to the Chief Dental Officers of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland with the goal of obtaining further advice regarding mask wearing in dental settings.

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