Northern Ireland news

Dentists write open letter to health minister warning of pandemic's impact on patients

An open letter has been sent to the health minister by a concerned group of dentists

HUNDREDS of private dentists have written an open letter to the health minister warning of "severe and potentially long-term damage" the pandemic restrictions are causing to patients and services.

Members of the British Association of Private Dentistry in NI (BAPD NI) are calling on Robin Swann to work with them and reintroduce "efficient, effective, and safe dental services in Northern Ireland".

They point to other countries such as Germany, Sweden and South Korea, where dental services have largely continued "without modification" during lockdown and "without any attributed spread of the virus".

In the Republic, dentists are in their fourth week back to work.

"Our patients in Northern Ireland are only too aware of this resumption of services in other regions and in many cases [patients] have been left with no option but to embark on a new form of ‘dental tourism’," the letter states.

"It is not our profession’s finest moment when we rely on our neighbour’s dental healthcare system to sort out our patients needs due to our own inability to act decisively."

The group, which has 750 members, also urges Mr Swann to relax limits around the use of aerosol-generating procedures (AGPs).

AGPs involve using instruments like drills or sprays.

Their use in dental surgeries was stopped earlier this year as droplets could be dispersed in the air.

Five urgent dental care centres were set up across the north, delivering care to about 250 urgent patients each week.

In the letter, the BAPD NI says members have been told by patients they are anxious about being treated by "unknown" dentists and said waiting lists were now "huge".

It also refers to the reduction in urgent cancer referrals and say they fear that "with no routine oral examinations, many oral cancers are being missed".

The Department of Health last night confirmed plans for the "next phase" of the re-establishment of dental services are at a "very advanced stage", with an announcement to be made this week.

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

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