16 Sep

Dentists fearful of the oral health impact of Covid-19 backlogs

Dentists across the UK have been working tirelessly to clear backlogs, but some are worried about the impact of prolonged closures on standards of oral health. 

At present, the majority of practices are focusing on emergency care and rearranging courses of treatment that were cancelled as a result of the lockdown. Routine services, such as check-ups are not widely available, and it could be some time before dentists catch up. 

Now that practices are up and running again, there is hope that routine services will resume soon, but some dentists, particularly those from deprived areas, are concerned that access issues will hit patients hard. Doncaster dentist, John Gatus, admits that the lockdown and subsequent backlogs are a major source of worry in the area. Standards of oral health are among the poorest in the country in the town and Mr Gatus said that those who are susceptible to dental disease will be at a higher risk. 

For most dentists, the priority when practices first reopened was to treat patients in urgent need and to reschedule procedures, which had been postponed. Routine services like check-ups may be described as non-essential, but they play a crucial role in protecting patients against oral health issues. Regular checks reduce the risk of dental decay and gum disease and they also enable dentists to carry out oral cancer screening. Oral cancer has become more prevalent in the UK in the last decade, but many people are still unaware of the causes and symptoms. Without access to regular check-ups, there is a worry that oral cancer symptoms will be missed, and this could lead to more cases being diagnosed at an advanced stage. 

Mr Gatus said that Doncaster has been an area of “high dental needs” for years, and the Covid-19 crisis is likely to make matters worse. He, along with his colleagues and fellow members of Doncaster and Bassetlaw Local Dental Committee are now working hard to “reverse this trend.”