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Sutherland mum speaks of her dental hell


By Caroline McMorran

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A Sutherland mum endured weeks of excruciating toothache and was finally forced to undergo a traumatic wisdom tooth extraction in hospital after being unable to access the dental treatment she needed because of the coronavirus lockdown.

Elaena Wells, Balblair, Ardgay, is angry that she has lost a tooth which could have been saved had she been able to have a routine procedure.

Elaena Wells.
Elaena Wells.

She is now challenging the Scottish Government’s claim that “appropriate dental services” are on offer to patients, saying the only choice is to either put up with toothache or have an extraction. She has complained to MP Jamie Stone who has taken up the issue on her behalf.

Mrs Wells, a director with a photographic company, said: “They (the Scottish Government) have tried very hard to make it seem as if appropriate dental care is on offer but I have seen the reality of it all - it is not. It is really important that people understand what is happening.

“Sending people to hospital to have teeth extracted rather than performing simple fillings with appropriate protection seems utterly barbaric.

“Dentistry is not exactly a luxury service - it is essential, and I am appalled at the current situation. I don’t understand how they can completely withdraw a dental service and think that it is okay for this length of time with no end in sight.”

NHS and private dental clinics across the country closed their doors at the onset of lockdown on March 23 amid concern that undertaking certain dental procedures, and particularly those involving aerosols, without proper personal protective equipment could increase the risk of spreading the virus.

Mrs Wells, who has three young children and whose husband works away, had been due to have a filling the day lockdown began.. Two days later she began experiencing severe pain as well as dizzy spells and blinding headaches. She called her private dentist in Inverness who prescribed antibiotics and painkillers but said he could not carry out the treatment.

“It was agony and Ibuprofen barely helped,” she said.

After enduring nearly six weeks of constant pain, and increasingly desperate, she finally had the tooth extracted at an emergency care dental unit on May 8 at Raigmore Hospital, Inverness. However, she is still suffering pain.

“I was absolutely terrified as I had to go into hospital on my own,” she said.

She has since sent an email to the Scottish Government questioning why she was forced to extract a tooth that could have been saved and has received responses from Amy Jarvie, chief dental officer with the Directorate for Population Health.

Ms Jarvie wrote: “We are working hard to maintain provision and have established a range of measures to offer appropriate dental services to patients during this difficult time……. To ensure that urgent dental care is available to those who need it, including those showing symptoms of Covid-19, dental care centres have been established in every NHS Board across Scotland.

“These centres have the appropriate infection control measures in place and full protective equipment. NHS Highland has nine such centres, including the one in Inverness on the Raigmore Hospital site.”

Jamie Stone has also received a reply from Ms Jarvie to a letter he wrote to the Scottish Government.

She told the MP: “These are unprecedented times. Please be assured that these new and temporary arrangements, including the referral pathways are being continually reviewed to ensure appropriate services are in place for those in severe need.”

Mr Stone has now called on the Scottish Government to clarify how it intends to adapt dental policy to allow for a ‘prevention is better than the cure’ approach as the lockdown continues.

He said: “Allowing more people to access preventative measures to save otherwise healthy teeth must be a priority for dental professionals even during a global pandemic.”

She is now challenging the Scottish Government’s claim that “appropriate dental services” are on offer to patients, saying the only choice is to either put up with toothache or have an extraction. She has complained to MP Jamie Stone who has taken up the issue on her behalf.

Mrs Wells, a director with a photographic company, said: “They (the Scottish Government) have tried very hard to make it seem as if appropriate dental care is on offer but I have seen the reality of it all - it is not. It is really important that people understand what is happening.

“Sending people to hospital to have teeth extracted rather than performing simple fillings with appropriate protection seems utterly barbaric.”

“Dentistry is not exactly a luxury service - it is essential, and I am appalled at the current situation. I don’t understand how they can completely withdraw a dental service and think that it is okay for this length of time with no end in sight.”

NHS and private dental clinics across the country closed their doors at the onset of lockdown on March 23 amid concern that undertaking certain dental procedures, and particularly those involving aerosols, without proper personal protective equipment could increase the risk of spreading the virus.

Mrs Wells, who has three young children and whose husband works away, had been due to have a filling the day lockdown began.. Two days later she began experiencing severe pain as well as dizzy spells and blinding headaches. She called her private dentist in Inverness who prescribed antibiotics and painkillers but said he could not carry out the treatment.

“It was agony and Ibuprofen barely helped,” she said.

After enduring nearly six weeks of constant pain, and increasingly desperate, she finally had the tooth extracted at an emergency care dental unit on May 8 at Raigmore Hospital, Inverness. However, she is still suffering pain.

“I was absolutely terrified as I had to go into hospital on my own,” she said.

She has since sent an email to the Scottish Government questioning why she was forced to extract a tooth that could have been saved and has received responses from Amy Jarvie, chief dental officer with the Directorate for Population Health.

Ms Jarvie wrote: “We are working hard to maintain provision and have established a range of measures to offer appropriate dental services to patients during this difficult time……. To ensure that urgent dental care is available to those who need it, including those showing symptoms of Covid-19, dental care centres have been established in every NHS Board across Scotland.

“These centres have the appropriate infection control measures in place and full protective equipment. NHS Highland has nine such centres, including the one in Inverness on the Raigmore Hospital site.”

Jamie Stone has also received a reply from Ms Jarvie to a letter he wrote to the Scottish Government.

She told the MP: “These are unprecedented times. Please be assured that these new and temporary arrangements, including the referral pathways are being continually reviewed to ensure appropriate services are in place for those in severe need.”

Mr Stone has now called on the Scottish Government to clarify how it intends to adapt dental policy to allow for a ‘prevention is better than the cure’ approach as the lockdown continues.

He said: “Allowing more people to access preventative measures to save otherwise healthy teeth must be a priority for dental professionals even during a global pandemic.”

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