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Dentists fear lockdown poses 'grave threat to nation's oral health'


(Stock photo)

(Stock photo)

(Stock photo)

Dentists fear the Covid-19 pandemic poses a "grave threat to the nation's oral health", with an overwhelming majority worried that their practices are at high risk of becoming unsustainable.

A survey commissioned by the Irish Dental Association (IDA) found that close to 80pc of the 329 private dentists fear the shut-down poses a high or very high risk to the sustainability of their practices.

Even more, 87pc, respondents said they are unlikely or very unlikely to return to pre-pandemic levels of service.

And 67pc of respondents said they can only maintain the viability of their practice for a maximum of three months under the current lockdown.

The survey also revealed that 86pc of practices have had to lay off staff during the lockdown.

And it is not just dentists who are suffering.

Patients are facing long waiting lists when surgeries are eventually reopened, and there are fears that oral cancers and other serious oral health issues could be missed if people cannot be seen in a timely manner, a spokesman said.

Meanwhile, Fintan Hourihan, chief executive of the IDA, said: "This survey highlights that we are facing a grave threat to the nation's oral health as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak.

"Routine dentistry is forbidden currently and many practices cannot facilitate emergency treatments in their premises due to the scarcity of personal protective equipment (PPE).

"This means that a significant number of dentists have increasing difficulty in helping patients who desperately need help.

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"Oral health is a key part of a person's overall health, and the effects of this outbreak will have repercussions that will last long after the virus has disappeared.

"The bleak reality is that unless supports are put in place for dentists, dental practices will close and patients will have to travel further for dental care and hospitals will be overwhelmed with emergency dental appointments.

"Patients will suffer as dentists find it impossible to deal with the unprecedented demands placed on the delivery of their services."

Mr Hourihan called on the State to provide a "kick-start" package of financial aid to help dentists bridge the gap in funding during the crisis, noting that close to a third of practices (29pc) were refused the temporary Covid-19 wage subsidy scheme and 71pc of practices were unsuccessful in qualifying for other State benefits.

The IDA is also urging the State to help it source scarce PPE which is essential for carrying out examinations safely.

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