The profession is calling for patients to keep attending their appointments even if restrictions tightenThe profession is calling for patients to keep attending their appointments over fears oral health could worsen. 

Dr Anne O’Neill, president of the Irish Dental Association (IDA), says dental appointments should not be deferred if COVID-19 restrictions tighten.

Similarly, she says it is ‘critical’ for dentistry to remain open – even if Ireland imposes Level 5 restrictions.

Crucial

‘It is critical that dentistry remains open for business. Even in the event of the country going to Level 5 restrictions,’ she says.

‘We are not facing lockdown along the lines of what we experienced in the spring; dental practices have incorporated effective social distancing and necessary infection control measures.

‘Now, dentistry remains open. Patients should continue to attend their dentist for scheduled appointments to maintain oral health and ensure oral healthcare issues do not develop.’

Safety first

She adds: ‘Dentists have proven that they can practice in a safe manner since the emergence of COVID-19. They will continue to risk assess each patient to ensure safety guidelines are maintained.

‘Oral health is an essential part of a person’s overall health. Attendance at your dentist should not be deferred.’

This comes as Dr O’Neill says dentistry is a ‘full-blown crisis’ in Ireland following the redistribution of staff.

For example, according to an IDA members’ survey, between 25% and 40% of skilled HSE Community Dental Service staff have been assigned to help with testing and contact tracing.

However, these individuals have not been replaced. As a result, she argues, patient needs cannot be met.