The phases we keep hearing on the news is these are uncertain times. The 1st national lockdown was unprecedented and it left dental care reeling, with some patients in a desperate place by the time local primary dentists were permitted to open following government guidelines at the time; from a dentist in Wimbledon to one in Aberdeen.
Aerosol-generating procedures or AGP’s
The aerosol-generating procedures or AGP’s is anything that may help a pathogen spread via the air. The unknown risk associated with aerosol-generating procedures or AGP’s led to the very cautious approach of suspending the majority of dental treatments.
All the details
For clarity’s sake, here are the official guidelines at the time of writing:
It is a technical document for clinics, but what does it all mean?
- In the 2nd national lockdown, primary dental staff are considered key workers and will not be mandated to stop practising.
- UDC (urgent dental care) must be provided even to those with suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19.
- an online prescription method has been implemented, allowing dentists to provide prescriptions electronically following an online consultation without coming in contact with patients.
- as key workers, dental staff have preferential screening using track and trace.
- a set of PPE (personal protective equipment) categories have been outlined for varying scenarios, based on the procedure being performed and the vulnerability of the patient.
The response from British Dental Assastion (BDA)
The BDA which represents surgeries across the UK has welcomed the guidelines but was very critical of the measures taken in the first lockdown. Arguing that the high hygiene standards implemented in the practice of dentistry would have allowed them to continue working safely. Also, that the decision to suspend so many dental procedures was undervaluing the role of the local dental service and left many people suffering unnecessarily.
It had been lobbying to have dental staff categorized as key workers and feels that they always should have been. As well as this, dental staff are pleased to now be covered by the governments frontline health and care workers life insurance scheme, providing £60,000 to those who die due to COVID-19 after being infected whilst providing essential health care.
A new method for a dental emergency
The new method of handling a dental emergency is to see urgent cases as soon as possible in local surgeries. Dental practitioners are therefore given greater leeway to refer cases on to specialists, without sending patients to accident and emergency departments.
The goal of this is to lower the burden on A and E, who during the first lockdown saw a substantial spike in dental patients with nowhere else to go.
The new guidelines seem to show that lessons have been learned. With a more moderate response to infection control, which balances the pressing need for dental services is now being observed.