Why routine dental treatments are not available
Dental check-ups and treatments involve close contact between the dentist and patient and so should not take place. Also, dentists and their teams have to avoid using tools like drills and the ones used for scales and polishes. This is to prevent them from catching the virus from an infected patient and passing it on to other patients.
Drills and other high-speed tools create a lot of ‘spray’ from patients’ mouths so dentists need to use protective clothing and equipment.
COVID-19 has on average a five to six-day period before symptoms show (but it can be up to 14), where someone wouldn’t know they had it and could pass it on to others. If an unsuspecting patient had a filling, the spray from doing that procedure would likely infect the dentist and the nurse.
The personal protective equipment dentists wear when using high-speed tools is currently required by hospitals treating coronavirus patients. Without this equipment dentists, hygienists, therapists and nurses are not safe to treat patients as normal.
What if I have a dental emergency?
Assuming you have not got COVID-19 related symptoms, you should call your practice. They will be able to decide what your options are.
The range of conditions provided for by local urgent dental centres are likely to include, but are not limited to:
- Life-threatening emergencies, eg airway restriction or breathing/swallowing difficulties due to facial swelling
- Trauma including facial/oral laceration and/or dentoalveolar injuries, for example avulsion of a permanent tooth
- Oro-facial swelling that is significant and worsening
- Post-extraction bleeding that the patient cannot control with local measures
- Dental conditions that have resulted in acute and severe systemic illness
- Severe dental and facial pain: that is, pain that cannot be controlled by the patient following self-help advice
- Fractured teeth or tooth with pulpal exposure
- Dental and soft tissue infections without a systemic effect
- Suspected oral cancer
- Oro-dental conditions that are likely to exacerbate systemic medical conditions.
If you believe or know you have COVID-19 and have a dental emergency, please phone NHS 111.
The Oral Health Foundation also has information for patients at this time.