The dentists facing the dangers of coronavirus to relieve the misery of severe toothache

Statistics show that while front line hospital staff are clearly at high risk from Covid-19 it is actually dentistry which is the most vulnerable profession, providing three of the top five most dangerous professions.

  • Watch a report by ITV News Anglia's Matthew Hudson

The statistical evidence is the reason why almost all dentist surgeries have been closed during lockdown, leaving many thousands to endure the misery of toothache at home.

But despite the risks, a small number of emergency units are still operating, providing relief for some of the most serious cases.

Most of them do not treat anyone displaying symptoms of coronavirus or anyone who may have been exposed to it. Patients are screened before being seen and you can't make appointments easily.

Emergency dental patients are screened before being seen in surgeries. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Anyone requiring truly urgent treatment should call their own dentist in the first instance (surgeries are still taking calls) or ring the NHS111 line if they don't have a dentist. They will be able to get the referral systems moving in truly important cases but, be warned, the process does take time.

The units can also only offer a limited number of services, largely based on extractions.

Staff in the emergency units are wearing extra PPE including visors, gloves, masks and aprons. They have to change these several times a day and it is hot, uncomfortable work.

Deep cleaning between patients is crucial for infection control. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Danielle Keen, who is the practice manager at an emergency unit in Northamptonshire told ITV Anglia: "One of the things we really want to do here is reassure patients that we can treat you safely and we can help you and we are here for you."

Personal protection equipment including visors, full face masks and gloves is used for emergency dentistry. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Lead nurse Ben Elder said of the extra PPE: "It's not comfortable at all really. Obviously as dental professionals we have a certain tolerance for it but on then off thirty times a day, spending sometimes up to an hour with a mask and a visor and gloves - it is a lot. But the team is in good spirits."

Clearly demand for emergency treatment in the Anglia region is extremely high and it is only worth applying if you have generally serious dental issues.

At present there is no information about when regular dental practices will be able to re-open or how they may have to adapt the way they work in the future.