Today we have published new research into the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on the dental sector which has found profound challenges persist for both professionals and patients. The reports highlight increased patient demand but that dental services were struggling to meet that demand with rising waiting lists reported by professionals. The evidence also showed a shift in patients and dental professionals moving away from NHS dental services to the private sector. There were some signs of resilience across dentistry however, with professionals remaining confident in their ability to operate safely and fewer patients reporting they had coronavirus concerns that would affect their decision to visit the dentist.
The research, which builds on work carried out in 2020, also found health inequalities continue to be made worse by the pandemic, with more young people and those from Asian and Black ethnic backgrounds reporting the greatest difficulties in accessing services. It also saw dental professionals reporting increased stress and mental health issues, as well as increasing impatience and aggression from patients.
GDC Executive Director, Strategy, Stefan Czerniawski, said:
“Dental professionals continue to rise to the extraordinary challenges posed by the pandemic, but these findings point towards a system being overstretched. Many of the most pressing and wide-reaching challenges highlighted in this research, such as access to services, health inequalities and pressure on professionals, will require attention and effort from everyone right across dentistry. While some of these are areas outside of the GDC’s direct control, we will use this evidence to inform all our work and share the insights with our partners to support those broader efforts to address these problems.”