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In the news week commencing 24 August 2020

National and local media coverage we've received week commencing 17 August.

Friday 28 August 2020

Dentists sound alarm over 10 million missed appointments

The British Dental Association has obtained data, via a freedom of information request, showing that over 10 million dental appointments were cancelled in England during the lockdown. The only provision provided from late March to early June was urgent dental care centres and the data shows they were only able to provide 2% of normal dental appointments. The BDA has warned that it could take months to clear this backlog of appointments. Dave Cottam, the Chair of the BDA's General Practice Committee, commented that during the lockdown access to dentists 'fell off a cliff' and even now there were capacity issues, as dentists have not been able to return to normal capacity for patient appointments. He called for the government to work with the dental profession to provide funds to increase access. BDA surveys have identified the limited capacity of dentists, due to social distancing and the need to leave time between appointments. Unless steps are taken to increase capacity to pre-covid levels there will continue to be a backlog of appointments for the near future.


The Times (Ireland) – subscription required


Half of adults have not seen a dentist in two years

NHS Digital figures have shown that 49.7% of adults have seen an NHS dentist in the two years to the end of February. This means that that 50.3% of adults have either seen a private dentist or, more likely for most, not seen a dentist at all. After the lockdown due to the covid-19 pandemic, which began in March, the number of people visiting dentists feel enormously, as dental practises closed and there were only limited number of urgent dental care centres. Dave Cottam, the Chair of the British Dental Association General Practice Committee, noted that access to dentistry was in a bad place before March and since the lockdown access has 'fallen off a cliff', with the government needing to intervene to rebuild capacity for dental appointments.


Daily Mail via PressReader - Half haven't seen a dentist in two years Subscription required

Sky News - Less than half of adults saw NHS dentist in past two years, figures show


Thursday 27 August

Tooth decay and extraction is on the rise in children, and set to get worse thanks to coronavirus

Almost 180 operations take place every day to remove rotting teeth from children according to the latest figures – and it is expected to get worse thanks to the COVID pandemic, Netmums writes. The data shows there were 44,685 extractions in 2018/2019 (costing the NHS a substantial £41.5m), which is a 17% rise on the 2012/13 figure. The Local Government Association says the vast majority of these operations are as a result of tooth decay, which is caused by sugary food and drink, as well as poor oral hygiene. With check-up appointments on hold, coupled with increased snacking and an end to the 'supervised brushing' sessions that take place in some schools and nurseries, it is expected that the tooth decay situation is only going to get worse.


The article contains tips and advice from dentists, as well as commentary from the BDA which points out that it's not just parents who need to act. BDA chair, Mick Armstrong, said: 'It's inevitable these figures will go from bad to worse, as lockdown diets, the suspension of public health programmes and the collapse in access take their toll. Government cannot remain a passive observer. Any retreat from public health activity will hit England's most deprived communities. Ministers must ensure the prevention agenda does not become another casualty of this pandemic.'


Wednesday 26 August

BDA says dental crisis should pave the way for urgent review of the financial help for dentists

Last night ITV Anglia News carried a warning from dentists and patients that oral health in East England could plummet due to a huge backlog of cases caused the coronavirus pandemic. The segment included an interview with BDA chair of English Council, Hannah Woolnough, who explained that dentists have to prioritise emergency cases, such as someone who needs a root canal treatment because they have a horrible abscess. But, she added, this means you're taking that surgery out of action and you're not going to be able to do those routine check-ups on other patients.


Journalist Russell Hooky explained that dentists are extremely limited in the treatments they can currently offer because procedures atomise tiny droplets of saliva which may linger in the air. The package included an interview with Northampton church minister Liz Adams, who broke two front teeth during lockdown and has been desperately trying to get a dental appointment, without success. "I contacted 19 different dental practices, all of which are not taking on NHS patients," she said. "I've had to learn to speak differently so I'm not spitting all the time. I've gone to all but four of the NHS dentists that are online. It's just been a backlog of no, no, no."


Alex Stewart, chief executive of Healthwatch Norfolk, said that routine check-ups are no longer happening because there isn't the capacity or facility to do that. He said: "We are concerned for patients that dental practices may be missing out on picking up on certain oral cancers, as well as general hygiene in children that could result in a lot of problems as people age."


The package concluded with a message from the British Dental Association that the crisis should pave the way for an urgent review of the financial help being given to dentists and how they are funded in the future.


Dental charges increase to cover PPE costs, says Which? 

The latest edition of Which? consumer magazine highlights that strict new infection control measures, including full PPE for staff, come at a cost for both practitioners and patients, as some practices charge patients a PPE levy. It notes that BUPA practices are charging an extra £40 for aerosol generating procedures (AGP), whilst MyDentist charges £35 for an APG, and an additional £7 for non-AGPs. It cites the British Dental Association as saying that the cost of PPE has risen by 3,000% compared with pre-pandemic levels. It also notes that PPE charges only apply to private treatment, as NHS prices are fixed.


The Which? 01/09/2020, p.7. Subscription required to access article


Tuesday 25 August

Experts warn of dental time bomb as backlog of cases hit 10 million mark

Around 11.56 yesterday, the presenter on the Caroline Martin programme (BBC Radio West Midlands) cited a warning from the British Dental Association that it will take months for dentists to clear a massive backlog of cases that have accumulated since lockdown. The segment also mentioned that 10 million dental appointments were delayed during the pandemic leading experts to warn of a dental time bomb, while those lucky enough to get an appointment could face a PPE charge of up to £40.


BDA chair discusses impact of massive backlog on patients 

Mick Armstrong, the chair of the British Dental Association, appeared on the Emma Barnett Show on Radio Five yesterday and discussed how millions of dental appointments have been missed during the COVID crisis. He noted that while for some people missing a routine check-up would not be an issue but for other patients' problems would build up. He highlighted that one of the most significant impacts was the lack of diagnosis of oral cancer that is picked up during routine check-ups. He commented that the back log of treatment would be difficult to deal with now, due to dentists only being able to operate at a third or quarter of normal capacity, with the limits COVID prevention put on dentists. He emphasised that with the current situation it was vital that patients reduced their sugar intake and brushed their teeth regularly. In the case of swelling or lump in the gums, if they did not disappear after two weeks, it was vital that patients made an emergency appointment to see their dentist. 


This dental segment was also highlighted in the run up to midday news: this carried the BDA's warning that it will take months for dentists to clear their waiting lists backlog. The item added that 10 million dental appointments were delayed during the pandemic leading to experts warning of a dental time bomb, while those lucky enough to get an appointment face a PPE charge of up to £40.


BBC Radio Three Counties warns that it will take months to clear dental backlog

The JVS Show yesterday on BBC Radio Three Counties also featured the BDA's warning that it will take months to clear the massive dental backlog. The presenter invited listeners to call in if they were able to get a dental appointment and to describe the experience. He wanted to know whether problems had eased since practices re-opened. Caller Pam sent her in a pic of a dentist, looking like an 'alien', as she described the heavy PPE the dentist was wearing. She expressed concern over how long it's going to take dentists to get through the backlog and wondered if, like doctors, dentists could be brought out of retirement to help with the 'catch up.'


The presenter also highlighted that Luton borough's health and wellbeing board discussed the possibility that a two-tier system was developing for the town's residents whereby the priority appeared to have been given to private patients over those who are entitled to treatment on the NHS. The leader of the council said he would investigate this.


Monday 24 August 

Tooth decay in children costs the NHS more than £40m a year, figures show

Several news outlets cover the high cost of treating dental disease in children and the Local Government Association's (LGA) calls for prevention schemes to be fully funded and to reverse a reduction of more than £700 million in the public health grant to councils between 2015/16 and 2019/20. The articles highlight the latest NHS figures on the number of surgical procedures – 44,685 – to extract teeth in those aged 18 and under in England in 2018-19, with the majority driven by tooth decay. This, they say, equates to 177 operations on each working day, and cost a total of £41.5m – up from 38,208 multiple tooth extractions in 2012-13, which cost the NHS £27.4m.


Local health officials say they fear lockdown will drive up levels of tooth decay as youngsters snack on more sugary foods and drinks while stuck at home and community oral health programmes are interrupted. The LGA, which represents councils in England and Wales, predicts poorer communities will be the hardest hit. Ian Hudspeth, chairman of the LGA's Community Wellbeing Board, said: "The fact that, due to the severity of the decay, 177 operations a day to remove multiple teeth in children and teenagers have to be done in a hospital is concerning and also adds to current pressures on the NHS. We need to do all we can to reduce how much sugar our children eat and drink, including investing in oral health education so that everyone understands the impact of sugar on teeth and the importance of a good oral hygiene regime."


Mick Armstrong, chair of the British Dental Association, said: "It's inevitable these figures will go from bad to worse, as lockdown diets, the suspension of public health programmes and the collapse in access take their toll. Government cannot remain a passive observer. Any retreat from public health activity will hit England's most deprived communities. Ministers must ensure the prevention agenda does not become another casualty of this pandemic".


Independent - Tooth decay in children costing the NHS more than £40m a year, figures show

The Guardian - Children's tooth decay costs NHS more than £40m a year in England


Masking no questions

The BDA and a periodontist dismiss a phenomenon, identified by two dentists in New York as 'mask mouth' after seeing a spike in patients seeking relief from bad breath during the pandemic. Professor Damien Walmsley, the British Dental Association's scientific advisor, says "attempts to link mask use and tooth decay appear motivated more by political prejudice than protecting. He said that recent claims on 'mask mouth' are risible. "East Asian societies - where face coverings have been ubiquitous for decades - are not confronting an epidemic of decay. Dentists wear masks as a matter of course, and we're not exactly at the front of the queue for extractions. If patients have seen a deterioration in their oral health, it makes more sense to look at lockdown diets and lack of access to dental services than to indulge in mythmaking," Damien added. Ultimately mask mouth is not something to worry about, says Reena Wadia, a periodontist at RW Perio. "There are no dental health hazards of wearing a mask as long as you stay hydrated and keep up your dental home care regime."


Huffington post - Is 'Mask Mouth' An Actual Thing – And Can It Be Prevented?


NHS dental appointments like 'gold dust'

An article in the Mail claims that an NHS dental appointment in Scotland is like 'gold dust' as dentists are forced to favour more 'lucrative private contracts'. It goes on to point out that a lack of financial support during the COVID crisis has left many practices facing financial challenges. BDA chair of the Scottish Dental Practice Committee, David McColl said: "Those practices that were 50 per cent NHS and 50 % private will be in crisis. The private element of dentistry wasn't supported, so many practices have lost half of their income. NHS appointments in all areas are like gold dust'. The Scottish government said it was listening to dentists' concerns and 'will continue to discuss ongoing support."


Fears for future as NHS dentistry is 'paralysed' by coronavirus rules while private treatment can go ahead

NHS dentistry has been paralysed by the Scottish government's coronavirus restrictions, according to a report in the Daily Record. Sheila Macintyre, of the Scottish Dental Association, has claimed the clampdown is driving patients away from the health service. Separate Covid-19 guidelines mean routine filling, crown and root canal procedures can't be carried out for free by dentists – but are available at full price if patients offer to pay. Macintyre, who runs a dental practice in Kilbarchan, Renfrewshire, said: "Whether it's intentional or an unforeseen consequence, the actions of the Scottish Government have left NHS dentistry in an indefinite paralysis. It has created a two-tier service where patients are only getting the treatment they need if they can afford to go private and pay," she said. "Covid-19 restrictions mean that we still can't carry out routine aerosol generating procedures (AGP) on the NHS in our surgeries." The article also references a Sunday Mail investigation that found those who cannot finance treatment are resorting to potentially dangerous DIY dentistry kits sold online. It found dozens of dental DIY kits available online for fillings and other procedures, which Scotland's clinical director Jason Leitch has advised people to avoid. This includes a tool set, which included a metal tooth scraper, mirror and hook, encouraged users to "become the professional at home". A spokeswoman for the British Dental Association also warned that many online [teeth whitening] products could be dangerous to use. She said: "These products won't produce the same good results you can expect by visiting your dentist and they could seriously damage your teeth. The products you can buy online or from High Street shops often fail to declare the precise chemicals used, so it's very difficult to assess their safety."