A MAJOR step towards the full re-establishment of dental services in Northern Ireland has been announced.
From Monday, June 29, all dental practices will offer non-urgent dental care treatments that are non-aerosol generating.
That will increase the dental patients being seen from the current level of around 2,200 patients to an estimated 38,000 per week.
Permitted procedures from this date will include procedures such as extractions, removing dental decay and placing temporary fillings and making dentures.
It is intended that on July 20 there will be a full return of routine dental care by all practices, including aerosol-generating procedures.
Practices are also being given the option of fast tracking a full return to routine care by the beginning of July, providing key conditions around infection and prevention control are met.
It should also be noted that while this time frame is welcomed, it may be necessary in the future to tighten restrictions if that is deemed to be in the best interests of the population.
Patients should continue to contact their local dentist to book an appointment for any of these procedures. The public should also be aware that owing to the significant cleaning and disinfection protocols that will be in place at surgeries that they may face longer waiting times.
Acting Chief Dental Officer with the Department of Health, Michael Donaldson, said that dental practices have been heavily impacted by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
“I would like to pay tribute to all dentists and staff who, throughout the pandemic, have gone the extra mile to ensure that patients in urgent need were able to receive the care that they required in very challenging circumstances.
“The nature of dental treatment means that the patient and dentist are in very close proximity and many dental procedures are aerosol-generating, which brings heightened risk of virus transmission.
“Therefore, one of the key elements necessary to allow practices to move to phases 2 and 3 is the availability of suitable PPE. In recognition of this, the Department of Health will support dentists in restoring services by providing help with PPE supplies.”