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Dentists donate oxygen in virus war as surgeries forced to close

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Limits: Richard Graham

Limits: Richard Graham

Limits: Richard Graham

Dentists have donated oxygen to hospitals across Northern Ireland ahead of the imminent Covid-19 surge.

It comes as thousands of patients are expected to need assistance breathing as they battle the effects of the deadly virus.

With dental surgeries across Northern Ireland closing their doors to patients, dentists have handed over oxygen and personal protective equipment to help in the fight to save as many lives as possible.

Meanwhile, efforts are also under way to increase the capacity of the emergency treatment available to people struggling with painful and debilitating dental conditions.

Surgeries across Northern Ireland have closed to patients as the majority of treatments are too dangerous to be carried out without dental staff wearing specialist personal protective equipment.

Individual surgeries would have to be thoroughly cleaned between each patient to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

As a result, staff at dental surgeries are triaging patients and referring those with severe problems to specialist hubs around Northern Ireland for treatment.

However, Richard Graham, chair of the British Dental Association's Northern Ireland committee, warned that patients will only be seen in exceptional circumstances.

"We can only give appointments in really severe emergencies," he said.

"That's because there is only a limited number of people who we can see in a day, so if you aren't in pain, you aren't going to be seen.

We have been so impressed with the number of dentists who have volunteered to help provide this service, they are so keen to continue to treat and care for patients Richard Graham

"The working conditions are quite tough, dentists in the emergency Covid-19 centres are wearing layers of protective clothing, FFP3 masks, visors, so it is hot and uncomfortable and then the dentists have to clean down the surgery before the next patient can come in.

"It has to happen like that because of the nature of the work that we do, as soon as you lift the drill, there is a greater risk from the virus.

"This all limits the number of patients we can see, we're actually only able to see about five patients a day, however, we are hoping that we're going to be able to increase capacity.

"We have been so impressed with the number of dentists who have volunteered to help provide this service, they are so keen to continue to treat and care for patients.

"Dentists are keen to do everything they can to help out wherever possible, despite the known risks from the virus," he added.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Robin Swann has welcomed a high uptake of the coronavirus financial support scheme for general dental practitioners in Northern Ireland, which will provide support payments to dentists to cover their costs while they are unable to provide their normal services during the coronavirus pandemic.

Belfast Telegraph