The Irish Dental Association (IDA) has said that the country’s dental services are facing an unprecedented crisis as a result of Covid-19 and that widespread closure of dental practices across the country is now inevitable. The IDA is the representative body for 2,000 dentists (public and private) practising in Ireland.
Mr. Fintan Hourihan, Chief Executive of the IDA, said that dentists faced particular challenges in the current situation: “By the nature of their work, dentists are one of the most vulnerable groups of healthcare professionals to a virus like Covid-19. Dentists work in extremely close proximity to the mouths and throats of the patients they are treating and they use equipment which generates spray and droplets from a patient’s mouth. Even with the use of protective clothing and best practice to minimise droplets or aerosols, it is extremely difficult to do the work of dentistry while trying to minimise the risk of contagion from Covid-19.”
Mr. Hourihan said that dentists have been left in the dark as to what was expected of them in the current situation; “In other countries, dental practices have scaled down services on the instructions of relevant authorities but we have had no clear, unambiguous guidance from either the Dental Council or the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) as to the current crisis. The implication that we can carry on as normal is clearly nonsense. It flouts the national effort to try to increase social distancing and to reduce the spread of the virus.”
“In the absence of clear directions and with the ultimate focus on increasing social distancing, our patients are cancelling their appointments and many of our members are making the decision themselves to close their practices for the duration of this crisis so as not to do anything that might increase the spread of the virus.”
“We are urgently seeking a meeting with the Minister for Health to discuss this matter with him and seek his advice as to how to proceed. We would also be happy to discuss with the Minister whether there are other areas where dentists may be able to support the healthcare effort during this crisis.”
Mr. Hourihan also warned that the crisis would have a massive financial impact on the profession; “Approximately 10,000 people are employed directly and indirectly through dental practices. Dentists receive negligible support from the HSE or the State for their services and the impact of closing their practices now will be severe and immediate. We need to discuss this situation with the Government as a matter of urgency.”