‘Undervalued and unappreciated’: dentist speaks out on PHE guidance

A dentist has spoken out as the PHE release guidance on personal protective equipment (PPE)A dentist has said practice teams feel ‘undervalued’ as new guidelines are released regarding personal protective equipment (PPE) and coronavirus. 

Yesterday (April 2) Public Health England released new guidance on the recommended PPE within primary care settings.

If treating a possible or confirmed case of COVID-19 (within two metres) in dental, optometry, maternity and mental health settings it recommends using:

  • Disposable gloves
  • Disposable plastic aprons
  • Fluid-resistant surgical masks (type IIR)
  • Eye/face protection

It does not recommend the use of:

  • Disposable fluid-repellent coverall or gown
  • Filtering face piece respirator

Additionally, the guidance includes information on the PPE required for any setting performing an aerosol generating procedure on a possible or confirmed case.

However, Dr Phil Barton, of Pemberton Dental Practice, says more needs to be done to provide the necessary PPE and cites difficulties in setting up emergency treatment centres in the north west.

Last week, the chief dental officer for England, Sara Hurley, called for the creation of local urgent dental care systems to meet the emergency needs of patients – both with and without COVID-19.

Dr Barton said: ‘The main concern is the conflicting information as to what is safe in practice.

‘I think we are all accepting that aerosol procedures have an increased risk but the new PPE advice seems to contradict that.’

Unsung heroes

He believes the profession feels their skills and efforts are not being acknowledged within the response to the pandemic.

He added: ‘There’s also the psychological element. The dental professional feels like they’re disregarded.

‘We feel undervalued and unappreciated. We’ve been at the forefront of cross infection control is primary settings.

‘Additionally, I think we are the only profession that sees 20 patients each day, all of whom potentially need minor surgery. We have to pay and train our own staff.

‘We feel like unsung heroes.’

Dr Barton’s practice closed last week and now dentists are on a telephone rota to answer patient calls.

However, he said the lack of PPE is a significant issue and progress in the north west has been slow when it comes to setting up appropriate urgent dental care systems.

He said: ‘Currently, we have arrangements with a local pharmacy who we liaise with if a patient needs a prescription.

‘I have also given my mobile number to those patients who have had any major work, such as implant treatment.’

He added: ‘As a profession, we can’t wait to get back in our practices. The fear of economic insecurity is significant but so are mental health issues. These are already a big concern among dental professionals.

‘I think what we’ve had so far is a half-baked solution.’

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