Community health

Ministers must address oral health impacts of Covid-19

By - Primary Care Journal

Ministers must address oral health impacts of Covid-19

The Association of Dental Groups (ADG) has launched a national campaign calling on ministers to take urgent action to deal with the growing crisis in access to dentistry.

Ten weeks after dental practices started to re-open, the ADG is exploring the impact that lockdown has had on the nation’s oral health. The centrepiece of the campaign will be a new analysis showing how different parts of the country have been affected by Covid-19 restrictions.

The analysis will be shared with MPs and policymakers to ensure they are aware of how Covid-19 has further exacerbated existing problems with access to dentistry in constituencies across the UK.

It will include several recommendations for ministers to take forward to deal with the crisis in access to dentistry, with the focus on securing an increase in recruitment and retention of dentists.

Chair of the ADG, Neil Carmichael, said: “Few dentists are looking forward to seeing the full impact that lockdown has had on the nation’s teeth. But while dentists are already sounding the alarm about where lockdown has left us, this is just the latest part of a bigger crisis we are seeing in UK dentistry.

“The reality is that Covid-19 has made the situation worse and we will shortly be bringing forward new analysis that sets out just how bad it has become. At this stage, all of the signs point to a worrying picture with lockdown having led to fewer patients being seen and some of the most vulnerable groups being hit hardest. ”

In an article for Politicshome, Mr Carmichael outlined the key issues to be addressed, highlighting changes to diets including increased quantities of sugary drinks and alcohol as part of the problem, alongside limited access to services. Mr Carmichael warned that many people are ignoring minor symptoms such as toothache or bleeding gums and allowing them to get worse.

Dental health routines have been ignored or forgotten, says the ADG, calling for more steps to be taken to increase the provision of services, especially in more disadvantaged areas. In many such areas, practices are not accepting new NHS patients and waiting lists stretch into the tens of thousands.

"In the short-term, the only realistic solution to the crisis right now is to make it easier for overseas professionals to enter UK dentistry," concludes Mr Carmichael.

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