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In particular, people are having problems registering as an NHS patient with a new practice, many are not accepting new clients or managing long waiting lists.
Data from Public Health Scotland showed that between April and November 2020 the number of NHS treatment courses delivered was 83% lower than in the same period in 2019.
Lawrence Titley of Livingston said: “My jaw hit the ground when they told me I can expect to wait six months for some fillings. It is completely absurd to wait six months for a dental routine.
Lawrence managed to register with a new dentist and take an exam in February this year, but he faces months before he can seek treatment.
Many other people in the area are struggling as well, especially those who moved to the area last year.
Meggie Williams, who moved to Edinburgh in September 2020, found herself with a sore tooth in January and tried to find an NHS dentist.
She tried five NHS dental clinics and all told her they were not accepting new patients. She was forced to go private and pay for an infill.
Meggie said: ‘I had no choice but to pay to do it as I had no idea how long I would wait, or if it would even be possible, to do it on the NHS. It all ended up being very expensive and quite stressful.
“When you pay the full cost of dental care you realize how lucky you are to get it normally on the NHS. “
At the start of the pandemic in March 2020, all non-urgent dental care was suspended. Routine NHS dental treatment resumed in November in Scotland.
However, practices still operate at reduced capacity to adhere to infection control protocols, requiring “fallow time” of up to an hour between treatments.
Fallow time is the time allowed for droplets to settle and the aerosol to disperse before environmental clean-up occurs – but can be reduced by better ventilation.
This has contributed to the huge wait times and difficulties many faced in accessing NHS services.
Steven Brown, a student, moved to North Berwick with his family in October 2020 and they had significant issues registering with a new dentist.
They only got an appointment in March 2021 – five months after the registration process began – and had to register using paper forms rather than online or over the phone.
Steven said: “It was a very boring process to go through after you just moved to East Lothian. The coronavirus has made the registration process, especially as an NHS patient, even more difficult. “
With many dental problems, prevention is key, and Lawrence added, “I have improved my dental habits dramatically, but I spend some nights awake worrying if irreparable damage is going to occur while I wait. ‘to be cured.
The British Dental Association (BDA) is particularly concerned about increasing inequalities in oral health due to the backlog of the pandemic.
According to data from Public Health Scotland, primary school children in the most disadvantaged communities suffer more than four times the level of tooth decay compared to children in less disadvantaged areas.
A spokesperson for the BDA said, “There is an unprecedented backlog in dentistry and dentists are working hard to try to resolve it. It is estimated that 2,500 children now have to wait up to a year for dental extractions in hospitals.
“Practices are operating at significantly reduced capacity to meet infection control protocols, and the BDA is seeking capital investments in areas such as ventilation that can help restore patient volumes.
“The dental budget in Scotland has been reduced in real terms in three of the last four years. This must change if dentists are ever to meet historic demand levels. “
The BDA has called on the four chief dentists from each of the UK’s countries to order a roadmap for the safe easing of current restrictions limiting access to dentistry.
Association President Eddie Crouch said: “The risk we face today from the virus must be weighed against the millions of people unable to access health care.
“It’s time to let experts weigh the risk of Covid transmission against the dangers of extending the status quo. Patients and the profession deserve clarification on the way forward. “
The Scottish government has announced it will provide £ 5million to dentists to help them see more patients during the pandemic.
Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said the money will allow NHS Scotland dental offices to buy, renew or upgrade equipment to improve ventilation in their practices.
Mr Yousaf said: ‘Remobilizing the NHS is one of our number one priorities and the Scottish Government remains committed to ensuring that the NHS dental services emerge from this pandemic in a good position to take care of oral health. dental population.
“This new funding is an important step to ensure the continued remobilization of NHS dental services and to ensure that more patients can be seen safely.
“We will also continue to fund free PPE for the dental sector and, from July, we will increase it up to 50%.
“We continue to work with the industry to provide much needed support for the complete re-mobilization of dental services. “