Dentists from Scotland share experience of emergency lockdown treatment
FORT WILLIAM, UK: Owing to strict government restrictions for controlling the spread of SARS-CoV-2, dental practices in Scotland were instructed to limit aerosol-generating dental treatments, and some were transformed into emergency hubs. M&S Dental Care in Fort William is one of these practices. For the duration of the lockdown, the practice has been turned into one of Scotland’s emergency NHS treatment centres, providing advice, relief and treatment to patients with chronic conditions.
M&S Dental Care normally provides dental care to approximately 100 NHS and private patients a day and is part of Clyde Munro, the largest independent dental group in Scotland. The dental group comprises 40 practices, over 200 dentists, 350 staff members and 300,000 patients.
Commenting on the situation, the founder of the practice, Dr Gregor Muir, said: “While it has been challenging, particularly at the beginning, once we got familiar with the new routines and processes, we all got into our stride and got on with the job.”
For the duration of the lockdown, the practice has introduced a two-tiered treatment system, with a red stream for patients with potential COVID-19 symptoms and a green one for those showing no symptoms. Patients are only seen by staff wearing extensive personal protective equipment (PPE), and elaborate procedures for donning and removing the PPE and moving patients through the treatment process are in place.
Despite the lockdown, the practice has received numerous calls from patients enquiring about routine dental appointments. The staff have offered advice to patients and referred the more severe cases to clinical colleagues who are responsible for triage and who prescribe pain killers or antibiotics where possible. Some patients with facial swelling, agonising pain or other serious symptoms are referred to the next stage of the NHS process, during which the patients are vetted for possible COVID-19 symptoms before being sent to the surgery for treatment.
“Many of the calls we have been fielding have been from people with broken crowns or missing fillings, and there is little we can do for them at the moment. In the case of fillings, we have even referred people to Amazon where they can buy temporary filling material,” commented a staff member.
Jillian Bruce, a long-standing manager at the practice, said that, although both M&S Dental Care and its sister practice in Glencoe had been shut down and staff furloughed, almost the entire team had volunteered to be part of the NHS emergency hub.
“I could never have predicted a situation like this but everyone has just got on with it and done their utmost to give patients the best possible care.
We’ve all heard the horror stories about people removing their own teeth, but thankfully we haven’t seen anything like that,” she said and noted that, once the lockdown lifts, her team will be well experienced in working to prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2. “That will be extremely reassuring to our patients,” she added.
“I really want to pay tribute to the professionalism of every member of staff who has volunteered to be part of this, including a number of dentists from the NHS public dental service. They all bonded brilliantly and pulled out all of the stops,” Muir commented.
“It’s also important to recognise the fortitude, grace under pressure and good humour of the patients. Most of those we have seen during lockdown have been in a great deal of pain, sometimes for weeks, and were often badly sleep-deprived as a result. Yet they never take out their pain or frustration on members of the dental team. In fact, they are respectful of the restrictions we’ve been operating under and grateful that they are finally having their problems addressed,” he concluded.
Dr Jacqui Frederick, group clinical director at Clyde Munro, said that the experience would help the group to shape its post-lockdown processes and that it is already considering installing patient portals and screens at reception, as well as virtual consultation software.