Dentists working to tackle patient backlogs fear Covid-19 has left services “a shadow of their former selves.”
Coupar Angus dentist Jeff Ellis estimates his practice is currently operating at 20-25% capacity, compared to pre-Covid-19 levels.
Current restrictions and infection control procedures mean dentists can’t see as many patients as before the pandemic.
Jeff, who is a partner in Coupar Angus Dental Care, treats largely NHS patients.
He admitted they are nowhere near back to seeing the numbers of patients they did previously and worries about the consequences of that on dental problems.
He said: “Access to services has decreased dramatically.
“We’re still no closer to business as usual, as the restrictions we work to mean we’re capable of seeing a fraction of the patients we saw before.”
‘Losing the chance to nip problems in the bud’
This is leading to huge amounts of unmet need, said Jeff, who is also a member of the British Dental Association’s Scottish Dental Practice Committee.
“From decay to oral cancer we’re losing our chance to nip problems in the bud.
“Preventive programmes for children remain suspended, and check-ups severely limited, meaning holes in teeth out there are getting bigger by the day.
“We’re working through a massive backlog.
“But we’re doing our level best to help those in most urgent need and will see anyone phoning up in pain within 24 hours.”
‘Shadow of its former self’
The British Dental Association, the trade union and professional body who represent all fields of dentistry, added more must be done to tackle dental health inequality which is at risk of being exacerbated by the pandemic.
Robert Donald, chair of the British Dental Association’s Scottish Council said: “Sadly, Covid risks undermining hard-won progress, while leaving our dental service a shadow of its former self.
“From helping practices boost capacity, through to expansion of the sugar levy, we have set out simple steps that can put that principle into action, addressing inequality, and restoring services to millions.”
The Association is making direct contact with every candidate seeking election to Holyrood to ask them to commit to addressing oral health inequality.