A shortage of face masks caused by the coronavirus outbreak poses an “imminent disruption” to UK dental services, it has been warned.
The British Dental Association said it has been inundated with calls from member practices in the wake of “panic buying, clumsy rationing and naked profiteering”.
China is the world’s leading manufacturer of sanitary masks, and several suppliers have tripled their prices since January.
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The BDA estimates a single surgery in a typical NHS practice – seeing around 28 patients per day – gets through five boxes of masks, containing 50 masks in each, a week.
It said practices are now finding they are unable to order more than two boxes per day,
While smaller practices may be able to get by on 10 boxes per week – two per working day, it said bigger practices of 13 chairs were facing a shortage.
“Even ‘two-chair’ NHS practices are now likely to use up their allocation completely,” it said.
In England, dentists are required to wear disposable face masks, clinical gloves, household gloves, plastic disposable aprons, and eye protection.
In Scotland they are permitted to use disposable masks or reusable visors interchangeably.
BDA chairman Mick Armstrong said: “In recent weeks dentists have been hit by panic buying, clumsy rationing and naked profiteering.
“Sadly a ‘one size fits all’ approach from suppliers is leaving many larger practices with few options.
“Our abiding interest is the safety of our patients, who face imminent disruption to their care.
“Unless we see a rapid increase in supply dentists without face masks will have little choice but to d