The COVID-19 pandemic is one of the biggest challenges we have faced in the UK for a long time and it is having a significant impact on our daily lives. We are all well aware of the strain this virus is placing on our NHS and the steps being taken to try and control it. We have a moral obligation to do ‘our bit’ to reduce the spread of this infection by observing good social distancing measures and reducing non-essential travel.

Within dentistry we have received clear guidance from our Chief Dental Officer, the Care Quality Commission and the General Dental Council advising us to cease providing routine dentistry. This is to reduce the risk of viral transmission between patients, staff and the wider community. However, we recognise that patients will continue to develop acute dental problems. During this time, as dental professionals, we have a duty of care to alleviate patients’ symptoms and to reduce any additional burden on hospital services from dental patients. In this current situation the default and first-line management of patients with dental problems is the so-called “AAA” protocol which is the use of advice, analgesics and antibiotics without any face to face patient contact. However, this approach is not suitable for all patients and some patients may continue to experience symptoms even after this has been tried.

At Queensway Dental we always put the best interests of our patients at the very centre of what we do and want to be able to help them especially when they need us most. Therefore, following careful consideration of the available guidance, we have established a daily emergency clinic at Queensway Dental, Billingham. This clinic is for patients with a genuine dental emergency, identified as part of a strict triage process (e.g. severe pain not controlled by painkillers, significant facial swelling, dental trauma, bleeding). Patients will also be asked about their COVID status and whether they or anyone in their household are experiencing a high temperature or persistent cough. We are unable to see any patients who have a confirmed diagnosis of COVID or are experiencing symptoms consistent with the virus. Triage can be carried out via telephone or we can also arrange a video consultation to aid the process. Following triage, patients will be invited to attend the clinic at an allotted time so we can manage patient flow on a “one in-one out” basis. The door of the clinic is kept locked and we will phone patients to come to the door once the clinical team is ready for them. When providing treatment, we will aim to avoid the use of aerosol generating procedures (e.g. using the high speed drill), wherever possible, as these have been shown to increase the risk of virus transmission. All clinical staff are provided with the highest level of personal protective equipment (PPE) including, FFP3 masks, visors, gloves, full surgical gowns and surgical caps for every patient interaction. We are following the current advice from NHS England regarding the required level of decontamination of both instruments and the clinical area. In addition patients are provided with a disposable surgical mask and gloves on entering the premises. Our emergency service is staffed by five clinical teams (dentist and nurse) each working one day per week and supported by two receptionists. This structure allows us to minimise the viral load for each clinical team, but ensures that we have regular capacity for patients throughout the week. We are constantly reviewing the latest guidelines during this ever-changing process and are regularly update our protocols as new information becomes available.

Please note that we only have capacity to see 8 patients per day. These slots are for genuine emergencies only and existing Queensway Dental patients will be prioritised. If you are not a Queensway Dental patient, please seek advice from your own dentist in the first instance. We understand that many patients will be struggling to get access to dental care at this time and may feel frustrated, but we kindly ask you to be patient with us and understand that we do have to be very strict with which patients we do and don’t see. Please realise that this is for the safety of all patients, our team and the wider community.

If you have any questions regarding our protocols or would like any further information then please contact our Clinical Governance Lead, Mrs Colette Meek on colette.meek@queensway.co.uk