LONDON, UK: Dental Protection says the large backlog of patient treatments – a lingering consequence of the pandemic – is negatively affecting the well-being of almost half of young dentists in the UK. The organization surveyed UK dentists with up to five years of professional experience and said the results were particularly worrying.
Dental Protection said its snapshot survey of more than 2,000 qualified dentists over the past five years showed that 37% of respondents were concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on their personal well-being. Almost half (49%) said backlogs affected their mental health, and a third said pent-up demand led to the need to work overtime. Just under half (49%) said they were not optimistic about their future in dentistry.
Comments from anonymous respondents drew attention to the fact that the situation was leading to negative interactions between patients and oral health professionals. “The backlog is a concern because patients are attacking dental staff not the NHS who define how we work within the system,” commented a young dentist. Another said: “I can’t take it anymore. I am moving the practice but if the situation with people’s rudeness does not improve, I will quit health care.
Dr. George Wright, senior dental educator at Dental Protection, said in a press release that the pandemic has brought about a “plethora of challenges” for dentists, such as the expectation that they adhere to public health guidelines that have affected the ability of dental clinics to function, leading to backlogs of treatment and, as a result, patient complaints.
Dr Wright said: ‘We know this is a challenge for members, both professionally and personally. The cumulative effects of stress have affected the well-being of the entire dental team and, as this survey shows, the impact on the mental well-being of newly qualified dentists is also significant. He pointed out that it was particularly worrying that almost half of the young dentists surveyed did not feel optimistic about their future in dentistry. “We know that eliminating the backlog is an overwhelming prospect for the entire dental team, but it is imperative that these young dentists, the future of the profession, feel supported and engaged by the entire system in order to may they continue in this rewarding profession,” he added.
NHS plan may not alleviate short-term stress
The dental protection survey was carried out between November 18, 2021 and December 4, 2021 and predates the NHS’ announcement in January of its plan to deal with the backlog.
The service said it would put muscle behind efforts to clear the backlog by pumping an additional £50.0m (€60.4m) into creating new fixtures. He said the money would create up to 350,000 additional dental appointments for the NHS, where vulnerable groups will be prioritized. These groups include children as well as people with autism, learning disabilities or mental health issues, according to an NHS newsletter.
Understandably, funding alone will not provide dental care, and NHS dentists will have to fill the extra appointments by working more hours. The NHS said: “Dentists involved in the scheme will be paid more than a third on top of their normal session fees for providing this care outside normal hours, such as working early mornings and at weekends. .”
Commenting on the ‘much needed boost’, Primary Care Minister Maria Caulfield said: ‘During the pandemic we have prioritized urgent dental needs, vulnerable patients and free treatment for children and through hard work of staff, the provision of urgent care care has returned to pre-pandemic levels. We are now working with the dental sector to recover and reform services and this £50million increase will help that recovery.
Dr Wright encouraged young dentists under stress to contact dental protection advisory service, which is available to members of the organization 24 hours a day.