BRADFORD is being hit by a worrying “surge” of people with complex dental needs, it has emerged.

It comes on top of a “significant” backlog of patients waiting to be seen - a situation made even worse by the pandemic. The severe problems brought about by Covid-19 have been laid bare by a Bradford dental surgery. 

Dentistry@Bd4, based on Holme Lane, off Tong Street, shone a spotlight on the issues in a bid to increase its opening hours, which, it says would help to tackle these problems.

A report to Bradford Council, on behalf of owners Alan and Janet McGlaughlin, sets out worrying trends which have emerged during, and as a result of the pandemic, with huge backlogs and a “surge” of people suffering complex dental problems who have been unable to access treatment. 

It says increased opening hours would allow the dental practice “to meet the dental care needs of new and existing patients”.

“Demand for dental appointments has seen a significant increase, partly due to reduced accessibility as multiple dental practices have not survived the economic downturn of the Covid-19 pandemic, therefore meaning the practices are no longer able to provide appointments to formerly registered patients,” it says.

There is also a longer wait due to a reduced level of appointments in order to follow Covid-19 guidelines and safe management and treatment of patients.

The report says: “The result is that the practice can no longer see the same number of patients as they could pre Covid-19 and as such patients are waiting longer for both standard and emergency appointments.

"Due to the location of Dentistry@BD4, which is positioned centrally between Bradford, Leeds, Huddersfield and Wakefield, the practices phone lines are busier than ever with an increasing number of patients calling from outside the Bradford district requesting an appointment.”

It adds that limited capacity and restricted hours of openings means the practice can only take on a certain amount of patients.

On top of practical barriers, the dental surgery is seeing the impact of the pandemic on people’s oral health.

The report says: “On the frontline, the practice is also seeing an increased prevalence of dental issues arising as a result of poor oral hygiene and uncontrolled diet during the lockdowns. 

“In addition, following the easing of lockdown, the practice is experiencing a surge of patients requiring more complex treatments who have been experiencing and tolerating dental issues for the past six to 12 months but who have been unable to be treated due to lockdown restrictions. 

“News coverage now shows that waiting times for dental appointments can be up to almost three years.”

It adds: “Allowing Dentistry@BD4 to operate for an increased number of hours would assist the practice in dealing with the significant backlog of appointments, increased patient demands as a result of other practice closures, proximity to patients and the backlog and dental health issues created by Covid-19.”

On a national level, the British Dental Association (BDA) has called for “urgent action”. 
BDA chair Eddie Crouch said: “NHS dentistry was in crisis before Covid struck, and we now face unprecedented backlogs, widening oral health inequality and workforce looking for the exit.”

A Department of Health and Social Care Spokesperson said: “We continue to support the dental sector and we are working closely with the NHS to increase access to high quality, affordable dental care as fast as possible, while protecting staff and patients as we have done throughout this pandemic.”

The spokesperson said all dental practices have been able to deliver their “full range” of face-to-face care since last June and added: “Patients requiring urgent access should contact NHS 111. The NHS has a duty to commission dental services to meet local need and where a patient cannot access an NHS dentist, the NHS is expected to provide help in doing so.”