In March 2020, strict limits were placed on the kind of treatments available from NHS dentists. These restrictions have now been lifted, with a full range of NHS dental care being reintroduced.
NHS Western Isles says it is working to bring back these services as quickly as it is safe to do so.
COVID-19 has changed many things in our daily lives, and dentistry is no different. New rules on cleaning, infection control, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and physical distancing are all in place. As a result, the number of appointments our clinics can offer each day will be significantly reduced. This means we can do more kinds of treatment, but not as much of it as we did before lockdown.
If you call to make an appointment, you should expect the receptionist to ask a few simple questions about COVID-19 before assessing the urgency of your problem.
When you are given an appointment, we ask that you attend as close to the given time as possible, and ideally come alone, as we have restricted waiting space. Of course, children, and those with carers, should be escorted. Please just tell the receptionist when you call.
Here are some of our most common questions:
Q. Are things back to normal at the dentist?
A. No. Despite some stories in the press, dentistry is still facing challenges - just like GPs, vets, hairdressers, restaurants, shops, and every service which deals with the public.
Q. Will I be able to finish my treatment from March?
A. Yes. We are looking back at our records to identify patients with unfinished treatment. Once we have completed that process we will be calling to offer appointments.
Q. In that case, should I just call up and make an appointment?
A. You should if you are having pain or other urgent problems. If not, we would be grateful if you waited for us to offer an appointment. It is going to take a while to catch up on a seven month back-log of work, and we would like to target the most urgent cases first.
Q. Can I book my six-monthly check-up: it's overdue?
A. Not yet. With a reduced number of appointments, we feel it would be fairer to catch-up on outstanding treatment before starting new cases.
Q. OK, but I have an ulcer that just won't heal up.
A. Although we don't want to do a lot of new examinations, any patient who has an ulcer or lump which isn't healing should contact us straight away. Make sure to tell the receptionist about this when you call.
Q. Why don't you have more appointments?
A. First, physical distancing means not all staff can actually come to work at the same time. We also have reduced waiting areas. There is now additional cleaning of dental surgeries required between all patients, which means a surgery can be out of use for half the day. Also, some dental staff were redeployed during lockdown to help other parts of the NHS. With the whole NHS still on alert for a second wave of COVID-19, not all our staff can yet return to their regular duties.
Q. I've heard that I can have any treatment I want done privately, so why is NHS treatment limited?
A. ALL treatment is limited just now. Some dentists did provide private treatment while NHS care was restricted, but the full range of NHS treatment has now been restored.
Q. When will things really get back to normal?
A. We would love for it to be right now, but in reality all medical and dental services will be disrupted until we have a COVID-19 vaccine. For now, we do apologise for the difficulties in obtaining treatment.