Here's when dentists can reopen for routine treatment in Scotland
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has revealed further measures that will begin to be relaxed in phase three of its easing of lockdown restrictions.
But are dentists now open for routine treatment?
Here’s everything you need to know.
When will dentists open again?
Following First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement on Thursday (9 July), dentists are able to see patients for routine treatment from 13 July.
Ms Sturgeon explained dental practices “will be able to see registered patients for non-aerosol procedures”.
This is the second stage of a three-phased return in the reopening of dental practices.
Aerosol procedures include the use of a high-speed drill, which cannot yet be used due to the fine mist that these procedures produce.
Although this means that “many forms of dental care will still not be possible,” procedures including the fitting of dentures and dental braces, and routine will be able to resume.
Dentists reopened on Monday 22 June, but this was initially for emergency care, and was the first part of the planned three-phase return.
The Scottish Government’s phased return of NHS dental services in Scotland was originally outlined in a letter to the British Dental Association (BDA) from Scotland’s Chief Dental Officer (CDO) Tom Ferris on 20 May.
Mr Ferris stated: “As you will be aware this is an extremely complex process. We need to be mindful of the oral health needs of patients balanced against the wider situation with Covid-19, and the essential requirements that we reduce the risk of community transmission and protect both patients and dental teams.”
What are the three phases?
As outlined in the CDO’s letter, these are the three phases for the return of NHS dental services in Scotland.
Phase One: Increase Capacity of Urgent Care Centres
During phase one, dental practices in Scotland will remain closed for face-to-face patient consultation.
Patients with dental emergencies can be seen at urgent care centres.
Phase Two: Restarting Dental Practices
Phase two involves opening up NHS dental practices in Scotland.
This includes all dental practices for face-to-face consultation for patients who are in need of urgent care. However, this is for treatment using non-aerosol generating procedures.
Face-to-face consultation will then be expanded for patients needing routine care, including examination and again, treatment that doesn’t require aerosols.
Phase Three: Introducing AGP (aerosol generating procedures) to Dental Practices
The final stage of opening dental practices in Scotland will be introducing a limited introduction of dentistry equipment, particularly aerosol generating procedures, back into treatment of patients.
However, this will be dependent on risk.
The CDO added: “We need to take into consideration the added risk of aerosol generating procedures on Covid-19 transmission.”
What is a dental aerosol and why do they pose a risk?
A dental aerosol is an aerosol that is produced from dental instruments like scalers, dental handpieces, three-way syringes and other high-speed instruments.
Dentists who treat patients using aerosols are at risk, alongside their dental assistants and their patients.
Most risk occurs from splatter and droplet transmission to dentist and assistant, as well as the nasal area of the patient.