The COVID-19 pandemic and dentistry: the clinical, legal and economic consequences - part 2: consequences of withholding dental care.
801 - 805
Br Dent J
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As routine care was suspended in most countries, one could anticipate progression of undiagnosed and managed oral disease. Patients are usually unaware of the development of oral disease as it is not visible to them and largely asymptomatic, especially in its early stages. The natural progression of conditions such as caries and periodontitis is inevitable without diagnosis and management. The full extent of patient harm because of the suspension of routine dental care can only be estimated when routine oral examinations are fully re-established, and even then, we will probably never know the number of individuals impacted or the extent of disease progression and harm.In first-world countries, there has always been a back-up emergency treatment system for dental problems. For example, in the UK, the safety net for life-threatening swellings and for acute pain relief is the accident and emergency services. This system remained in place during the COVID-19 pandemic. Courts could be expected to understand the coronavirus context and would take this into account should there be a complaint against the clinician about access to care.The suspension of routine dental care to save lives will lead to the closure of many dental practices due to substantial financial impact. The return to routine care will be slow, with prioritisation of non-aerosol generating procedures while we look to further understand methods to mitigate transmission risk via infected aerosol and spatter. Inevitably, the cost of personal protective equipment and the lower volume of patients pose a continued threat to businesses.