Where to find a dentist during COVID-19?

20 March 2020
By Bryan Smyth
bryan@TheCork.ie

  • Patients and dentists must be safeguarded during treatment
  • Vast majority of dental practices limited to emergency treatment or have closed

The Irish Dental Association (IDA) has called on the Health Service Executive (HSE) to establish a regional network of designated dental emergency centres in order to adequately treat patients during the Covid-19 crisis.

This call has been made alongside an unprecedented joint submission to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) outlining dentists’ concerns over the guidance they have been given in light of the Covid-19 crisis.

Speaking today, four senior members of the IDA outlined their concerns:

Dr. Leo Stassen, President of the IDA
Dr. Kieran O’Connor, Vice-President of the IDA
Dr. Anne O’Neill, President-Elect of the IDA
Dr. Eamon Croke, a member of the IDA’s Quality and Patient Safety Committee

The group said: “The IDA respects the hard work of the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC), but our members are clearly indicating that they have a different view of the dental services which should be provided at this stage of the Covid-19 curve.”

The current guidance for dentists is based on the evidence collected, collated and interpreted by the HPSC.

There is universal concern within dentistry about this guidance. In an unprecedented move, a joint submission has been made to the HPSC calling for this guidance to be updated by the IDA, the Dental Council, the Cork Dental School and the Dublin Dental School.

The group continued: “We are urgently calling for the establishment of a structured, emergency care service in the form of a regional network of dedicated centres to support all patients, maximising the protection of the health of those providing it, maximising the effective and efficient use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and, very importantly, protecting the health of our patients.

“Covid-19 has brought into sharp focus dentists’ primary ethical obligation to protect the health of their patients, their staff and themselves and, in doing so, work in the broader interests of the community. By making this call, our members are reflecting their intimate knowledge of dental processes, the potential for Covid-19 transfer in small waiting rooms, small surgeries and the difficulties they have had in securing even routine dental protective wear. Our patients understand the need for social distancing and have undertaken it with great responsibility, resulting in cancellation of appointments and reduction in services.

“The majority of private, independent dentists have already adapted their practices in line with international standards, limiting dental treatment for patients without symptoms to essential treatment, and ensuring patients with symptoms of Covid-19 are referred.

The IDA can confirm that the vast majority of dental practices are now limited to emergency treatment or have closed.

“We now need to plan for the next phase of the Covid-19 curve, bearing in mind the limited availability of protective supplies, protecting our vulnerable patients and providing appropriate dental care for all patients during what is an extremely challenging time. The establishment of dedicated regional centres would enable dentists to treat patients while minimising the risk of infection. We need to find novel solutions to provide emergency care to our patients.”

The IDA is the representative body for 2,000 dentists (public and private) practising in Ireland.

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