The impact of Covid-19 has been felt across the world and for dentistry it has presented some significant challenges. However, since our practices reopened last Easter 2020 we’ve been treating thousands of patients in line with the national Infection Prevention & Control Procedures and Standard Operating Procedures, keeping our people and our patients safe across all our locations.
Our referral services have all now resumed, many delivered in partnership with general dental practitioners, hospitals and other care professionals across the county, and we continue to operate the Urgent Dental Care Hubs (UDCH) for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly on behalf of NHS England. Our valuable telephone triage service for urgent and emergency care remains in place across the whole week, accessible via our dedicated Call Centre on 0333 405 0290.
At Smile Together our Service Improvement Programme involves clinical and professional support colleagues continually seeking out innovative ideas and opportunities and reviewing business processes and service provision. This enables us to meet if not exceed the needs of our patients and the expectations of our commissioners whilst creating a great environment in which to work.
For example, we have successfully trialled a new way of running our assessment clinics to work more efficiently and maximise possible health gains. This is achieved by using our dental nurses with enhanced skills to prepare and complete preliminary documentation, take x-ray pictures when requested by the dentist and apply primary preventive measures. This is an effective use of skill-mix which enables the dentist to focus on examining our patients, gaining informed consent and treatment planning whilst the enhanced skills nurses use their time to ensure the preventive messages and interventions have maximum effect. The outcome is that patients and families undergo a positive experience.
Our receptionists, who are also a vital part of this process, have helped to book appointments and taken on full responsibility for meeting and greeting our patients. We’re essentially combining skill-mix and assessment with primary prevention to the benefit of our patients.
Clinical Director Mick Allen says: “Not only have we developed additional resources, particularly with consent and information for radiographs and fluoride varnish, but our team have incorporated enhanced preventative advice and guidance for patients, recognising that for some families this is one of their few interactions with a dental service. We take every opportunity to give general and oral health advice – for example, to dry brush and spit, not rinse when toothbrushing – making every contact count and ensuring this is a positive and valuable experience for all, which families particularly appreciate. The patient has the fluoride varnish application but also the adult with them hears the oral hygiene advice which applies to us all. I have been so impressed by how hard our team have worked to develop and trial this new approach and to give helpful feedback so we can improve further. It’ll be so helpful for our patients and their families, especially with the delays caused by the pandemic”.
In some cases the children we’re seeing recall these key messages from their engagement with our Brighter Smiles oral health programme, which is soon to resume in Cornish schools and nurseries located in areas of high decay. This programme was necessarily paused due to the pandemic but the team developed virtual resources for teachers and parents to access remotely – from four oral health education films to a fun animation of Dylan the Dragon and the sugarbugs!