Dentists want the Government to establish designated centres around the country for patients to receive emergency dental care during the coronavirus crisis.
The Irish Dental Association (IDA) said on Monday it was crucial that such services should be provided to all patients, and that access could not be restricted to those with medical cards.
In a letter to Minister for Health Simon Harris, the president of the IDA, Prof Leo Stassen, urged the Government to publish its plans for emergency dental care. He said the establishment of similar dental centres abroad had allowed the redeployment of dental teams to other areas of the health services.
"Many dentists in Ireland have already volunteered on Be on Call for Ireland, [the HSE's online recruitment drive] and many more have expressed an interest in working in emergency dental centres."
Prof Stassen said there were “no normal rules now”. The way dentistry was being offered needed to change in light of the Covid-19 outbreak.
“For now, people with emergencies should be seen following phone/video triage, and if they need to be seen directly they should be seen initially in an assessment room and offered any treatment in a prepared room with the correct and appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) based on science, not simply available resources.”
He said remote dentistry was achievable in practice for as long as the Covid-19 pandemic continued.
“Prescribing antibiotics and analgesics from a consultation over the phone/video call is necessary, and will be supported by the dental profession as long as a good clinical history is recorded and appropriate advice given to the patient.”
He said initial advice from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre and the Department of Health regarding the provision of dental care in light of the Covid-19 crisis had been changed as a result of extensive lobbying, but more needed to be done.
Prof Stassen said the IDA did not agree with the department’s current advice on aerosol-generating procedures (AGPs), which posed an “unacceptable risk” to dentists, their staff and patients.
“We request that the department would revisit the guidance being issued to dentists to state that AGPs should be avoided in routine settings, thereby bringing that advice into line with that prevailing in practically every other comparable jurisdiction, rather than the current advice suggesting that they [AGPS] be minimised and thereby expose dentists, patients and their staff to unacceptable risk as we see it.”