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How the next visit to your dentist in Northern Ireland might look

Dentists will slowly reopen but what you'll find when you next visit is a new kind of normal, writes Lucy Stock, dentist at Gentle Dental Care in Belfast

Dentists will be wearing extra PPE – but please be assured that the same friendly people are underneath it all
Ask the Dentist with Lucy Stock

EVEN though we can now see patients face to face in our dental practice, very little has changed from last week to this week in terms of what treatments we can provide for patients. The slow, phased approach in Northern Ireland differs from England where dentists are now able to provide more treatments with appropriate PPE.

Encouragingly, guidelines have been brought out to allow Northern Ireland dentists to start preparing for when we are released. So, the next time you visit the dentist there will be an altogether different feel to your traditional appointment and it will start before you even put a foot through the practice door.

Teledentistry, just like telemedicine, can be used so that you have a face-to-face or over-the-phone chat with a member of the dental team. They will be explaining how the practice will run, find out what you are wanting done, checking if you have any Covid symptoms and going over your general health status. Forms can be filled out before you reach the practice, the idea being to reduce the time spent there.

Gone are the days when dentists practised without gloves; for decades now dentists have employed extremely high standards of hygiene to protect both patients and staff. The new guidelines that have been introduced to maximise the safety of patients during the Covid-19 era will simply be slotted into the normal dental cross-infection routine.

Practices may look barer to allow for ease of cleaning, as the cleaning regimes will be increased in frequency throughout the day. To allow for this, appointments will be staggered. You may have a longer appointment so more can be done in one visit.

The dental team will have additional masks, visors and gowns on and while this may come across as impersonal, please be assured that the same friendly people are underneath it all. Additionally, during the treatment, the dentists use of their normal suction and placement of protective rubber squares dramatically improves patient protection.

Be reassured that the vast majority of patients are without coronavirus infection and these steps are put in place to reduce spread as far as is practically possible.

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