What’s the Drill? | Advice for accessing a dentist

Content originally from HealthWatch Essex

The vast majority of our healthcare services have had to change and adapt in line with the outbreak of COVID-19, and dental services have certainly been no exception. Although dentists were given the go-ahead to re-open their doors with appropriate social distancing and personal protective equipment (PPE) in place from 8th June 2020, the challenges associated with doing this effectively has meant that many services have taken longer to re-open, and this of course has resulted in fewer appointments being available for those who need them.

Our Information & Signposting Team receives a consistent number of calls from individuals in Essex requiring assistance with dental related matters. One of the questions we are most frequently asked is ‘how do I find a dentist?’ Some callers have moved home and so need to register in a new area, and others find themselves without a dentist for other reasons; ‘I was advised to contact you in regard to no NHS available dental practices in my area taking on new patients. I actually thought I still had a dentist until I called to make an appointment and was told that I was ‘archived’ since I had not been to see them in a few years’ being one example. So, here are a few tips to help if you find yourself in the same position;

  • Phone your local dentist to get information about their opening hours and advice on where you can go to get the care you need
  • If you don’t have a dentist or your dentist is closed, you can phone NHS 111. Translation services are available.
  • If you are deaf or hard of hearing visit https://interpreternow.co.uk/nhs111
  • Do not go along to the dental surgery if you have not been given an appointment. Call Healthwatch Essex on 0300 500 1895 for advice on other options available to you.

It is imperative, when you do have contact with a dentist, to adhere to the practice guidelines. The British Dental Association advises;

  • If you call to make an appointment, you will be asked some screening questions. You’ll be asked those same questions again at your appointment.
  • You will probably be asked to use hand sanitiser or to wash your hands when you arrive (and again before you leave).
  • Social distancing measures will be in place in the waiting rooms.
  • Appointments will be managed to allow for social distancing between patients. That might mean that you’re offered fewer options for scheduling your appointment.

Hopefully after your appointment, you will be feeling much better, and at this point you may well want to give feedback on your experience. For example, a recent piece of feedback we received stated ‘I can honestly say I love going to this friendly and welcoming dentist in the heart of our town. I’ve had lifelong problems with my teeth and ultimately my dentist referred me as he felt I needed expert treatment. The surgery is a relaxed and friendly environment with amazing state of the art equipment. When he retired, I asked to join their practice and I’ve never looked back. No problem is too difficult or too much trouble. They always find a way through. They are very caring as individuals and also as a team. They are all passionate about their work. I’ve always had great results and highly recommend them’. Well worth checking out, particularly if you are one of the many nervous dental patients in our county!

Healthwatch Essex offers a Feedback Centre when you can leave reviews on all health, social care and wellbeing services. You can leave a review of your dentistry experience for other members of our community to check when they are looking for a service themselves. This feedback can be viewed by everyone, including the services themselves, so it is a great way to make sure that your voice is heard.

If you would like to talk to us about dental services, our Information & Signposting Team would love to hear from you. As well as contacting us on the telephone number above, you can also text on 07712395398, email info@healthwatchessex.org.uk or use our new live chat facility by clicking the red button on our homepage.