05 Aug

Dentists are back at work, but many could be facing a struggle to survive

UK dentists are back at work, but many could be facing a struggle to survive the pandemic. Widespread closures, increased running costs and limited patient numbers have created a perfect storm of financial issues, which could threaten the future of many practices. 

Current guidelines encourage dentists to restrict access to surgeries to promote social distancing and allow for fallow periods between patients, and this, combined with rising expenses, is contributing to an uncertain future for dental professionals. The cost of PPE has soared in recent months, dentists now require more items of PPE and practices are losing income daily as a result of reduced capacity. 

The situation is particularly worrying for private dentists, who don’t have access to government support like their NHS counterparts. Some clinics have already introduced additional charges to cover the cost of PPE for complex procedures, but even with higher fees, there is a risk that some practices won’t survive. 

Dr Nikhil Oberai, from Brunner Court Dental in Northwich, said that it is a very difficult time for dentists. Dr Oberai’s practice is currently running at a third of its normal capacity, and there is anxiety linked to paying back loans and continuing to fund supplies, including PPE. Although the government has provided access to loans to keep businesses afloat, they will need to be paid back one day, and this could be a problem for several private practices. 

According to data from Rotacloud, a software provider, 50% of dental workers had returned to practices on the 12th July. A quarter of the UK’s 12,000 dental practices are private. Mixed clinics, which provide both private and NHS treatment, have been able to secure compensation for lost NHS income.