Dentists will be able to see more patients safely thanks to a £5m fund from the Scottish Government to remobilise services in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic.

The money will allow NHS dental practices to purchase, renew or upgrade ventilation equipment, which means surgeries can substantially reduce the time between seeing patients, and offer dental teams the opportunity to see more patients safely.

Dental services were largely halted when coronavirus hit Scotland last year, and many practices are still operating at a reduced level due to safety regulations.

To meet strict guidelines on COVID transmission, dentists have had to leave surgeries fallow between most common procedures. 

Restrictions have left practices operating at a fraction of their former capacity.

Data from Public Health Scotland has shown a dramatic reduction in NHS dentistry delivered, which has hit those in most deprived communities the hardest. Between April and November 2020, the number of courses of treatment delivered was 83% lower than during the same period in 2019.  

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “The remobilisation of the NHS is one of our number one priorities and the Scottish Government remains committed to ensuring that NHS dental services emerge from this pandemic well-placed to care for the oral health of the population.

“This new funding is an important step in ensuring the continued remobilisation of NHS dental services and to ensure more patients can be seen safely.

"We will also continue to fund free PPE for the dental sector and, from July, we will increase it by up to 50 per cent.

“We are continuing to work with the sector to provide much-needed support to fully remobilise dental services."

The British Dental Association Scotland has welcomed the allocation from the Scottish Government. 

David McColl, chair of the British Dental Association's Scottish Dental Practice Committee said: “This is a no-brainer from the Scottish Government. Investment in ventilation can future proof Scotland’s dental services, boost patient numbers, and pay for itself.

“We must avoid half measures. Many dentists have had no option but to buy portable systems to get patients back through their doors. Ministers must ensure they do not lose out.  

“For our patients' sake, this needs to mark a turning point when it comes to providing ongoing support to practices. Access to services has fallen off a cliff. A signature policy on free dentistry for all will be a promise that can’t be kept unless we see real commitment from ministers."