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COVID-19 and dentistry – survey of the UK public

Date: 03 December, 2020
COVID-19 and dentistry – survey of the UK public

This report provides the findings from our COVID-19 and dentistry survey of the UK public. The independent research was commissioned from Community Research to explore the impact of COVID-19 in relation to public safety, confidence in dentistry, and patient and the public’s choices about their dental health.

During the tightest period of the national lockdown that began on 23 March 2020, only urgent or emergency dental care was available to the public mainly via regional hubs and centres. Dental practices began to reopen for face-to-face care from 8 June 2020 in England and 22 June in Scotland. In Northern Ireland and Wales most practices remained open during the lockdown period. This survey, carried out in August, explores the experiences and choices of the public during this time. This work forms part of a wider research and engagement programme to understand the impact and implications of COVID-19 for dental regulation, patients, the public and dental professionals, and to inform our business planning as we continue to live and deal with COVID-19.

Key findings 

  • The majority of those surveyed were aware that only urgent services were available during lockdown, but a sizable minority (30%) did not know. People were most likely to seek this type of information directly from their dental practice, however, many people are not registered to a practice. This suggests there is an ongoing need for the public and patients to have clear communication about the services and treatments that are available, particularly as the COVID-19 pandemic continues and restrictions start to rapidly change across the UK.
  • While some people were nervous about returning to dental practices, most reported that they were just as likely to visit the dentist now for various treatments as they were before the pandemic. People were most likely to say that they would continue to seek care for fillings, root canal work, extractions and implants, check-ups and treatment for gum conditions. By contrast, far fewer, around a quarter, said they would be a lot less likely to go to the dentist for cosmetic dentistry, or non-dental treatments (such as face fillers). The finding suggests ways that dental practices could reassure people that it is safe to visit their dentists, such as providing clear information to patients about control measures in place at the practice and ensuring extra cleaning and sanitation takes place before and after each appointment.
  • Further, the research indicates that some groups of people have greater concerns than others about visiting dentists while COVID-19 persists. An issue with the potential to exacerbate existing oral health inequalities in the UK. For instance, 70% of Black and 68% of Asian respondents agreed that they would not go to a dental practice unless they had an urgent issue, compared to 52% of White respondents.

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