THE managing director of a Basingstoke dentist surgery has described the dire situation faced by practices in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Speaking exclusively to the Gazette, Dr Anushika Brogan of Damira Dental Studios in South Ham, said the practice was unable to cope with the backlog of patients and staff are struggling to manage the amount of demand they are facing.

“People’s oral health is in tatters,” she said, adding: “It’s really stressful.”

Dr Brogan explained that the problems began in March 2020 when the country went into lockdown because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dentist surgeries were shut down and did not open again until June 2020.

“We would have normally seen thousands of patients in this time,” explained Dr Brogan, adding: “When we reopened, we were only able to see urgent cases mostly by telephone triage. We only reopened for non-urgent at the tail end of 2020 but it’s left a huge backlog of patients who require urgent care and routine care.”

Dr Brogan spoke to the Gazette after Damira was criticised by one patient who was unable to access an NHS dentist appointment, despite suffering with excruciating pain.

Mum Louise Elliott got in touch with the Gazette after being unable to book an NHS appointment with Damira, having suffered with excruciating pain caused by broken teeth.

The 36-year-old, from Oakridge Road, said she was in agony and had been unable to see her dentist at Damira as an NHS patient, despite trying for months.

Dr Brogan said Louise’s case is not isolated.

The surgery used to see 24,000 patients a year, but now Dr Brogan estimates they are only able to see around 40 per cent, because of Covid restrictions.

“Every time we pick up a drill, we have to leave the room for 15 minutes to half an hour and that has been happening for 18 months,” she said.

The measure allows time for aerosol spray to settle before staff wipe down all the equipment and surfaces, preventing the spread of Covid.

These restrictions, which were only eased this week, have meant surgeries cannot see as many patients as usual.

Dr Brogan said that dentist surgeries in Hampshire are not accepting new NHS patients, while Damira is receiving hundreds of calls each day from people desperate for treatment.

“People’s oral health is in tatters. People have been eating sweets and drinking fizzy drinks during lockdown,” said Dr Brogan.

The managing director said the easing of restrictions will help, but she believes it could be 18 months before surgeries are able to catch up with the backlog.

“We still have patients who haven’t been able to see us. They have nowhere to go. They do have the option of going private but we only have limited capacity. It’s really stressful. Our staff turnover has been through the roof. They don’t like saying no to people in pain and we are trying to help as many people as we can but there’s only so many people we can help. There are more people in pain than we can see. As a result, staff are leaving. As a practice owner it’s really stressful.”

Dr Brogan believes the problem is not being spoken about, adding: “It’s a really big problem and it’s being swept over. It isn’t being talked about.”