This article discusses the impacts of the Covid-19 lockdown on UK patients and their dental health using insights from the recent exclusive UK survey by Dr. Heff’s Remarkable Mints. You can download the full survey results by clicking on the download button:
The key insights from the survey are:
- 75% of adults are interested in learning how to improve their own dental health to prevent dental disease.
- 83% say they take dental/oral health seriously.
- A quarter of adults surveyed have brushed their teeth less often than normal during lockdown.
- More than half have eaten more chocolate, sweets, fizzy drinks (including alcohol) during lockdown.
- Due to concerns over Covid-19, TWICE as many patients would delay their routine dental appointments than attend.
From a national overview of dental expectations this survey is uplifting. We see the public is interested in dental health and in learning how to improve their own dental health. This is a cheering result, as the question was specifically framed to see if patients were prepared to take responsibility for their own toothcare to prevent dental disease. Happily, the majority are.
Although the enthusiasm for dental care appears strong, the will appears less so, particularly within the confines of lockdown. There is evidence in our survey that people are snacking and drinking more sugary foods and erosive beverages. This data is supplemented by information on sales from retailers showing a 35% increase in sales of sweets and a 25% increase in sales of soft drinks.
Like many dentists, I sent out information to our patients on how to look after their teeth during the pandemic. We will need to determine when we see our patients whether the information was in a format to change their habits or if too many other concerns overtook those about their dental health. It would certainly be worthwhile dentists reviewing their CPD to include the latest approaches to caries and erosion.
The largest risk of missing three months of dentistry will be to the periodontally susceptible group of patients, as decreased oral hygiene and lack of maintenance from the dental team will no doubt have caused progression of disease. It is these patients who will need to be prioritized for review with hygienists as virtual consultations will not indicate bleeding scores and pocket depths.
There are concerns that as finances become tighter and dental costs escalate, more patients will be put off attending dentists and hygienists. This might be a good time to review how patients pay for their dentistry. Should dentists continue with a fee per item of service or consider an alternative approach that would allow a more regular revenue stream, as well as provide all the preventative/motivational benefits of regular hygienist care within a capitation scheme? Alternatively, should we be looking at other payment plan options to allow patients to fund their dentistry over longer periods with credit?
Dental practice is no doubt going to change. I am to be fit-tested for my respirator mask tomorrow and start back in dentistry on 8th June. My aim is to bring the enthusiasm and knowledge that I have garnered from all the CPD webinars over lockdown. I intend to change how I do dentistry for the greater satisfaction of my patients and myself.