Dentists warn patients that reopening next week does not mean business as usual

Dental staff in Essex are fitted for PPE Credit: ITV Anglia

Dentists can re-open on Monday - but some say they haven't had enough notice to gather protective equipment and put new safety measures in place.

Today, at the Bromley Road Surgery in Colchester, dental staff from across Essex were fitted with customised masks - ready for next week.

"It's not a light bulb moment. It's not just turning on the switch - yesterday we're not working and today we are. The transition is very much trying to facilitate patients getting back into the care that they need, but we know there's going to be a gradual shift where urgent care is up here and will drop down and routine care is down here and will gradually shift over."

Prof Nick Barker, Chair, Essex Local Dental Network
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To open, practices will have to keep waiting room chairs at least two metres apart and some patients may also be asked to wait outside or in their cars.

Protective screens will be installed in reception areas and patients will be encouraged to use contactless payments.

Staff will be screened for coronavirus symptoms daily - and some surgeries will be introducing temperature checks on those coming in and out.

Those measures are in place at Bromley Road, but it hasn't been easy.

They say that will all the extra cleaning and safety measures that are needed, they will only be able to see eight patients a day instead of their usual 40.

Dental staff are fitted for PPE Credit: ITV Anglia

And with many people nursing minor issues with their teeth that haven't been able to be treated during lockdown, there are fears among dentists that it may take months to clear the backlog.

The British Dental Association has warned that people will return to a 'skeleton service'.

Some practices say they can't yet re-open as they haven't had enough notice to put safety measures in place.

Statistics show that dental staff face some of the highest potential exposure to coronavirus - so this protective equipment is crucial.