Pregnant Exeter woman forced to drive 320 miles for emergency dental care due to lack of protective equipment

A woman who is 32 weeks pregnant was forced to drive from Exeter to Birmingham for an emergency dental appointment after suffering from severe toothache.

Denise Hill made the 320 mile round trip after failing to get an appointment with her dentist, or any other in the South West.

The pain was so bad she couldn't sleep.

I took myself into A&E and saw a nurse there. She did everything she could, and spoke to the doctors on A&E and the consultants to see if there was anything that could be done. Everybody has been given the same advice, they (the dentists) are not allowed to see any patients face-to-face. >

Denise Hill

As a result of the pandemic dentists in our region aren't allowed to see patients for routine appointments because of safety concerns, including the lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

Emergency dental centres are also lacking adequate PPE, meaning emergency appointments can't be carried out.

Current guidelines state health workers coming within one metre of a patient with COVID-19 should have a visor, mask, apron and gloves.

The British Dental Association (BDA) has confirmed there is an 'absence of functioning and properly equipped emergency systems' due to a lack of appropriate PPE.

Denise Hill, made the 320 round trip, after failing to get an appointment in the South West.

This week, following official advice, all dental practices ceased routine care.

Most are still offering a telephone service, giving advice to patients.

The closure of all normal dental practices means many people with severe tooth pain, who need treatment, could end up going to their nearest A&E department.

ITV West Country has been contacted by some people in Cornwall who have raised their concerns over this, saying it will take vital time away from hospital staff at a point when they are needed more than ever.

This week, following official advice, all dental practices ceased routine care. Credit: PA images

It was announced by Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick on Monday (29 March) at the Downing Street briefing that all dental practices have received fresh supplies of PPE.

However, the British Dental Association has disputed this claim, saying practices have received no additional stock.

The reality is dentists are busy fielding calls from patients in pain, but with nowhere to send them. Weeks have been lost that should have been spent setting up a properly equipped emergency dental service.

British Dental Association Chair Mick Armstrong

Ian Mills, a dentist in Torrington who is Dean of Faculty of the General Dental Practice, said he was deeply disappointed to hear about Denise Hill's experience and said she fell into the category of patients that isn't yet being catered for during the coronavirus crisis.

He believes the NHS is hoping to designate fifteen urgent care treatment centres across the West Country, but in Devon alone he was only aware of two in the pipeline.

ITV News spoke to Ian Mills, Torrington dentist and Dean of Faculty of General Dental Practice

There are some circumstances where you just need urgent dental care.

Ian Mills
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has announced that they are prepared to take action against dental practices who are still seeing patients for routine treatments. Credit: PA images

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has announced that they are prepared to take action against dental practices that are still seeing patients for routine treatments.

The CQC acknowledges there has been a delay in getting emergency centres up and running, however it is hopeful this will be resolved soon.

It is reported that some practices are still seeing patients for routine care including aerosol-generating procedures.

The CQC has said that where these reports are accurate, they will consider taking action.

It is reported that some practices are still seeing patients for routine care Credit: PA images

Why are routine dental treatments not available? - Advice from the BDA

Dental check-ups and treatments involve close contact between the dentist and patient and so should not take place.

Also, dentists and their teams have to avoid using tools like drills and the ones used for scales and polishes.

This is to prevent them from catching the virus from an infected patient, who might not be showing any symptoms, and passing it on to other patients.

Drills and other high-speed tools create a lot of ‘spray’ from patients’ mouths so dentists need to use protective clothing and equipment.

What if you have a dental emergency? - Advice from the BDA

Assuming you have not got COVID-19 related symptoms, you should call your practice. They will be able to decide what your options are.

If you believe or know you have COVID-19 and have a dental emergency, please phone NHS 111.