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COPENHAGEN, Denmark: Dental clinics in Denmark were permitted to reopen on 20 April, and Norwegian dentists have started to provide non-emergency treatment after the countries’ governments began easing some of their COVID-19 lockdown restrictions. Strict infection control measures remain in place, and dentists are concerned that supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) may not be sufficient to meet patient demand.
Transmission rates of SARS-CoV-2 have fallen in Denmark, and dentists have been included in a list of professions that the Danish government has said can now return to work, provided that their business premises and activities meet health guidelines and observe social distancing measures.
Alongside dentists, the list of professions that can return to work included healthcare practitioners such as chiropractors and psychologists, as well as providers of cosmetic and wellness services such as tattooists and beauty and massage therapists.
Peter Lembke Gerdes, CEO of the DentaNet professional network for dentists in Denmark and Norway, confirmed to Dental Tribune International that dental practices in the two countries were reopening. “As of today [20 April], dentists can now start working again. The curves representing new infections and deaths from the virus have stalled significantly, and dental practices have been told that they can open again under certain conditions. For example, no one can come to the practice without an appointment and plenty of time must be left between patients so that staff can effectively disinfect,” Gerdes explained, adding that “Norwegian dentists have been opening up today as well.”
Gerdes said that the Danish government’s announcement was welcome because Danish dental practitioners had been struggling. “They were told to only perform the most necessary of treatments, which effectively shut them down. Contrary to other businesses, they were told that this would be the case most likely until the end of June. A lot of subsidy and help packages have been offered to all kinds of businesses; however, most practice owners feel that they are not getting much help,” he said.
“There is a lot of concern about getting back to work and whether dentists will have enough protective equipment and how long their stocks of it will last”
– Peter Lembke Gerdes, CEO, DentaNet
The BBC reported that the sudden reopening of businesses across Denmark had led to concerns that meeting health and safety measures would be a challenge and that the Danish Dental Association was still assessing whether additional PPE supplies would be needed.
Gerdes agreed: “There is a lot of concern about getting back to work and whether dentists will have enough protective equipment and how long their stocks of it will last. Some dentists have commented that, with the new regulation, they may only be able to run their practice at full capacity for around 14 days before they run out of protective equipment.”
According to Gerdes, potential PPE shortages could lead to dentists in Denmark rationing their supplies, further prioritising emergency treatment, or possibly prioritising high-cost treatments that will allow them to make up some of their revenue losses. “Dentists might try to do some screening of who is in most need of treatment—or perhaps which treatments will yield the best income.”
Fellow European states Germany, Switzerland and Austria have also begun easing their lockdown restrictions, and dentists in Switzerland are set to reopen on 27 April.
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