The federation representing dentists in Flanders (VBT) has issued a warning that patients could run the risk of oral and dental infections if they postpone treatment as a result of the confinement.
“We have had a lot of patients in recent days with tooth and mouth infections that could have been avoided,” said Frank Herrebout, president of the VBT.
Since the beginning of the lockdown, many dentists have chosen to close their surgeries, but emergency or urgent care is always available. Many patients, however, are failing to take advantage of the possibility, perhaps out of fear of the new coronavirus (Covid-19). In doing so, Herrebout said, they run the risk of developing a serious oral or dental infection.
Dentists who do remain open are reported to be unable to meet the demand.
Delay in seeking treatment, he said, “can make dental problems worse. In many cases, teeth have to be removed. This causes considerable additional costs for the patient, because at a later stage the tooth often has to be replaced by a partially reimbursable dental prosthesis.”
Dentists stress that they follow the strictest possible hygiene protocols and that most have suitable protective material.
“This allows the patient to be treated safely and the risk of contamination is kept to a minimum. So patients don’t have to be afraid to go to the dentist,” the federation said.
The call by dentists echoes advice given earlier by doctors, instructing people not to avoid calling on the family doctor or even attending the emergency room if suffering from an ailment other than infection by Covid-19.
In the early days of the lockdown in March, Domus Medica, the association of GPs in Flanders and Brussels, advised anyone suffering from an urgent or serious ailment to contact their GP in the first instance, as they would normally.
For the duration of the pandemic, the system for family doctors has changed, with doctors re-arranging their appointments to minimise as far as possible contacts between patients, and installing a system of telephone triage, so that anyone complaining of coronavirus symptoms can be isolated so as not to endanger other patients.
Brussels university hospital – UZ Brussel – advised that serious complaints can always be brought to the accident and emergency department in Jette, but the GP should always be the first person to contact.
“GPs can use a special telephone number to schedule an urgent appointment for a consultation at UZ Brussel for their patients, so that they can avoid an emergency visit,” said hospital spokesperson Gina Volckaert.