Dental patients in Forth Valley are being warned it could take ‘several months’ before appointment availability returns to anything like normal.
The NHS Forth Valley senior dental leadership team issued a statement last week for patients through dental practices in the area.
Most dentists are independent contractors not directly employed by health boards, but all are following national guidelines regarding Covid-19.
Like all services they are working through a backlog and continue to prioritize people who need more urgent care, however – like other services including GPs – the need for further cleaning and changing of ‘PPE required between each appointment means they are still unable to see as many patients as they did before the pandemic.
In the open letter, the NHS FV team said: ‘We recognize that NHS patients can now receive the full range of NHS treatments.
“However, dental practices have not resumed their usual activities.
“The current restrictions mean that the number of patient appointments available will be far lower than before Covid.
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“Additionally, as patients have not been seen for routine care in the past 15 months, all practices have a huge challenge in dealing with the backlog of treatment. Therefore, patients will be prioritized based on their oral health needs.
“Once this difficult period is overcome, we hope to be able to return to some normality in terms of appointment availability – however, we do not expect this to be possible for several months.
“Rest assured that everyone in your practice is working extremely hard to provide the care you need. They have the same frustrations as you with this situation and are doing their best in these really difficult times.
The team stressed, however, that those in need of immediate care would be given priority.
They added: “Emergencies and urgent care will continue to be the main priority. NHS Forth Valley dental services are always there for patients who really need it.
“Please contact your registered dentist if you need to be seen urgently for: pain, infection, trauma or any concerning stains in the mouth.”