The future of dental services in Northern Ireland now "hangs in the balance" as services resume post-lockdown, an industry body has warned.
Dentists here will be able to provide non-urgent care to the public from June 29, with other procedures which require certain instruments scheduled to start from July 20.
Richard Graham, chair of the British Dental Association's (BDA) NI Dental Practice Committee, outlined the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown on the industry to Stormont's health committee yesterday.
"Without adequate, ongoing support from government, it is frankly impossible to sustain a model based on activity when activity has fallen through the floor," he said.
"The future of dental services in Northern Ireland now hangs in the balance."
The body also warned dental services will restart at a "fraction" of their pre-pandemic capacity, due to personal protective equipment (PPE) costs and shortages, and requirements to meet strict guidelines.
The BDA also warned dental practices are at risk of closure, given not all businesses will not be able to survive due to the collapse in patient numbers, unless health authorities here offer "long-term support or change the current model".
The health department has indicated existing support packages could be wound down after August, and any future support will have to be "subject to the confines of the dental budget".
"At a time of great uncertainty and anxiety, we call on the department to be doing whatever it takes to get the service through this crisis intact," added the BDA.
Acting Chief Dental Officer with the Department of Health (DoH), Michael Donaldson, has stressed the provision of PPE had been one of the "key elements" in enabling dentists to offer non-urgent care.
"In recognition of this, the DoH will support dentists in restoring services by providing help with PPE supplies," he said.