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New guide to emergency dental care

NHS England tells patients with toothache not to trouble GPs or A&E over Christmas holidays

Mark Gould

Monday, 09 November 2015

NHS England has produced a new quick guide to emergency dental care in an attempt to dissuade patients from visiting A&E or their GP over the Christmas and New Year holidays.

The guide Best use of unscheduled dental care services – is designed to do ensure patients go to the right place for emergency care over the holidays.

Eddie Crouch, Vice Chair of the British Dental Association Principal Executive Committee, and a dentist in Birmingham, said:

"Visiting an accident or emergency department or a GP is usually not the best place to get dental problems treated. With Christmas and New Year around the corner it can really put pressure on vital services when they are most needed for more serious conditions."

Mr Crouch said that the guide explains that patients should not delay seeing a dentist when they start to get symptoms as dental problems are much better dealt with sooner, before serious pain develops.

"By patients and the health profession working together we can improve the service for everyone especially at a time of year when the NHS is coping with increases in patient demand," said Mr Crouch.

He said that dentists in turn should provide clear and accessible information on where care is available when they are closed over the holidays. Mr Crouch said that dentists should get started early, placing posters in waiting rooms and on surgery doors informing what cover and out-of-hours care is available.

They should also update their opening hours and contact details on 111 non-emergency service so that those using this service know when they are available and if not, who else in their area can help patients get fast and appropriate care.

Patients should also remember that pharmacists are also able to assist in short-term pain relief, and will help support and direct patients to the best service to treat their problems.

For those patients with the most serious of dental conditions including rapid swelling around the eye and throat, severe trauma or uncontrolled bleeding from the mouth, it would be better to be seen at an Accident & Emergency centre with special dental support. But he said that the vast majority of people will be best seen at a dentist.

Some less serious conditions, such as chipped teeth or lost fillings with no pain, or broken dentures, are appropriately dealt with when routine services are available.

"So don’t let dental problems spoil your festive period. Midnight on Christmas Eve is a terrible time to get toothache. By working together we can make the service work better for everyone," Mr Crouch concluded.

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