Thousands of people in England are potentially unable to access urgent dental services after the coronavirus pandemic.
The British Dental Association (BDA) told the BBC that dentists in England are being bombarded by calls from patients in real pain, but there is often nowhere to send them.
What is the problem in England?
At the moment, all routine dental care has stopped. On March 20, a letter was sent by the dental director of England asking for practices for "radically reduce the number of routine exams".
Five days later, practices were told to stop all routine treatment "until otherwise indicated". The decision was made to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
For patients with emergency dental problems, NHS England is in the process of setting up local urgent dental care centers (UDCs) across the country.
However, the BDA says that only a small number of these sites have been created so far.
UDCs are designed to provide care to people with urgent and emergency dental problems after a referral from your local clinic. They aim to offer treatment to patients with symptoms that include:
- Fractured teeth
- Bleeding after extraction
- Facial edema
- Gums and other soft tissue infections
CDUs should also accommodate patients with and without Covid-19 symptoms.
Some hospitals are offering emergency consultations for dental patients, which means that treatment is still available. The NHS also says that some surgeries will offer short-term consultations.
However, several patients told the BBC that they were struggling to access any local services, despite constant pain.
In a statement, the NHS England says that there are currently 50 UDCs, another seven are due to open this week and the remaining 103 will be able to treat patients starting next week.
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The British Dental Association says that many dental clinics "have nowhere to send their patients".
How many people are being left untreated?
The BDA says it cannot give a precise number.
However, it says that almost all practices receive an emergency call every day and that a large number of cases are not treated.
He says that if some conditions are left untreated, such as an abscess, they could turn into life-threatening situations.
The organization says it has already expressed its "deep concern" to the NHS England about the current situation.
He believes that some of the problems in the installation of UDCs are due to the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) for employees.
What happens if you need to see a dentist?
At first, patients are advised to call their local clinic.
If the symptoms are severe, local dentists can prescribe medication over the phone (such as pain relievers and antibiotics). In such cases, dentists can contact local pharmacies, who can prepare medication for patients to seek.
However, several patients cannot be seen in emergency consultations, because most practices cannot see patients in person.
Under these circumstances – or if a patient is not registered with a dentist – the advice is to use the 111 online service.
& # 39; It's scary not to know & # 39;
Kathryn Hey, 47, is a Biddulph teacher in Staffordshire.
She told the BBC that she woke up with a sudden sharp pain last Thursday. Hey believes that she is suffering from missing fillings or is developing an abscess.
"I spoke to my local dentist twice, but I was told that they would only see me if my face was swollen," she told the BBC.
"I did a lot of research on the Internet; I must have looked at 20 local dentists. But they all say the same thing – unless my face is swollen, they won't see me."
Kathryn Hey has been suffering from dental pain since last Thursday
Ms. Hey says she managed to manage the pain with prescription painkillers.
"It is up to me to diagnose, which is not acceptable.
"It is scary not to know if I have an abscess in the making and what the long-term implications are.
"I just have to deal with the pain."
What about Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?
The BDA says that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland appear to be much more advanced in the installation and operation of the UDC centers compared to England.
- The Scottish government says its dental practices can offer advice over the phone. However, where urgent or emergency dental care is needed, he says dental care centers are available on all NHS councils in Scotland.
- The Welsh government has created 15 UDC centers across the country. The government says that patients should contact the local dentist at first instance. In an emergency, the advice is to call 111. If the pain is uncontrollable, the Welsh government says urgent centers must be able to handle referrals
- The Northern Ireland Health and Social Care Council says emergency dental clinics are being set up in the country's five health and social care institutions. He says that these clinics will only serve patients with urgent needs and, after the appointment of a local dentist