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Dentists warn of major problems as Covid-19 lockdown continues

Dentists are warning of a dire public health problem, as guidelines around dental care in coronavirus lockdown remain unclear.

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Around 400,000 Kiwis have missed dental appointments since the start of lockdown. Source: 1 NEWS

Around 400,000 people have missed out on dental appointments since lockdown began, with one person even in intensive care after an infection became life threatening.

With New Zealand at Alert Level 4, the nature of dental work means that even the upcoming drop to Level 3 won't make too much difference.

The uncertainty an understandable concern for those in the industry.

"I don't know how my practice is going to start again," Newmarket Dental Group's Doctor Erin Collins told 1 NEWS.

"At this stage I've got no guidelines, very little information and I've got a whole lot of patients sitting there."

The industry also suffering due to their desperate need for PPE.

"These items of PPE are incredibly difficult to access, and becoming increasingly expensive as the weeks progress," NZDA's Doctor Katie Ayers says.

The current cost for PPE for one patient sits at $80, and there are fears that the situation will only get worse.

Dr Ayers urging New Zealand looks to Australia's example of how to emerge from the pandemic.

"The profession was allowed to develop guidelines with support and endorsement by their regulators.

"As of Monday, safe provision of safe dental care will be available for Australia, but not New Zealand patients."

Twelve per cent of New Zealand practices have had to make cuts, while a further 45 per cent expected to have to do the same.

Meaning there may be less dentists to go to once New Zealand leaves lockdown.

The Ministry of Health told 1 News it’s currently finalising guidelines for oral health services at Level 3, which it says will be published “shortly”. Guidelines for Levels 2 and 1 are still being developed.

Urgent and emergency dental care can still be provided in Level 4.

The Ministry added it’s “actively developing a system of national sourcing, ordering and distribution” for practitioners to access PPE.