In March 2020, dental practices across the UK were advised to close their doors to patients, as a national lockdown was introduced to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection. The lockdown lasted several weeks, with clinics given the green to reopen in England at the beginning of June.
If you had a dental appointment booked during the lockdown, you might be wondering whether it’s a good idea to try and reschedule. It’s natural for patients to be intrigued by what the dental practice will look like in the post COVID-19 era and what they can expect if they attend an appointment.
A ‘new normal’
Dental teams all over the country have spent the last few weeks adapting to a ‘new normal’ as we attempt to maintain a balance between resuming dental services and keeping patients and staff safe. Although infection rates have dropped, and the statistics are more positive, the virus is still very much out there, and as such, health ministers and bodies have introduced new measures to protect patients and reduce the risk of patients and dental professionals contracting and transmitting the virus.
One of the first things to be aware of if you’re thinking of trying to book a dental appointment in the coming weeks is the availability of routine services. Many dental practices are running a reduced selection of services, and most are also limiting patient numbers to allow for social distancing and cleaning between appointments. This means that it might not yet be possible to organise a check-up. In many cases, patients who need urgent treatment will be prioritised, as well as those who had already started or were due to start a course of treatment during lockdown.
Upon arrival at the practice, patients may notice a few differences, including temperature checks, enhanced cleaning and infection control measures, social distancing signs and stickers and more robust PPE for staff teams. The reception areas and treatment rooms may look slightly different, but there’s absolutely nothing to be worried about. The extra measures are in place to make spaces safer and ensure everything is done to minimise the risk of viral infection.
Before appointments, some dentists are contacting patients online or via the telephone to discuss what will happen during the appointment and plan treatment in cases where patients have symptoms of dental problems. This speeds up the process for dentists and patients, and it also enables dental teams to talk to patients about the new setup before they arrive and provide peace of mind.
For some people, going to the dentist is a rather scary prospect, but patients shouldn’t be alarmed by the sight of gloves, masks, visors and gowns and aprons. Extra PPE is recommended for some procedures, and dentists may be wearing more items than normal. This is purely to protect themselves and their patients.
The world is very different from 6 months ago, and we are all adjusting to a new sense of normality. If you’re thinking about calling and making an appointment to see your dentist, hopefully, this guide will help you prepare in advance.
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