DENTISTS in York are battling to tackle backlogs of patients needing treatment while imposing a raft of social distancing measures to protect staff and patients from the coronaviurus.

The Government said dental surgeries could reopen on June 8 but the British Dental Association’s York representative, Mark Green, has warned it will take a "significant period" to clear a backlog of patients in difficulty.

“These are patients that were not severe enough to warrant a referral to an urgent dental centre but still require some treatment to alleviate the symptoms,” he said, adding that the delays had mainly been caused by ‘fit testing’ PPE.

“Over the last few months, the bottlenecks to delivery of dental care have changed from not having PPE to being overcharged for counterfeit PPE and now to check whether the PPE fits correctly and is doing the job well enough,” he said.

“Added to this is the current guidance on fallow time after an aerosol is produced, which is an hour at present. Another factor is dividing practices up so that social distancing is possible.”

Vicky Poyner, of Hopkins and Poyner in High Petergate, said it was lucky to have obtained the high grade PPE enabling it to carry out aerosol generating procedures such as drillings, and for it to be fit-tested.

However, each time such a procedure was carried out the surgery had to be vacated for an hour to allow the aerosols to settle before it could be cleaned and used for the next treatment.

She said the surgery was prioritising patients with problems such as pain and broken teeth and could not as yet take appointments for routine check-ups.

A spokeswoman for Woodthorpe Dental Centre said it was "incredibly busy" but had been making great progress in tackling a backlog which had built up, concentrating on those with more serious problems.

She said safety measures included patients waiting outside rather than in the waiting room, with a nurse then checking their temperature and the patient sanitising their hands.