A PRIVATE dentist with three practices says business is returning - but the industry is still facing key challenges.

Childcare constraints, clients' wariness about visiting in the wake of Covid-19 and the need to allow extra time between appointments are among the issues facing dentists.

The government permitted practices to reopen from June 8, following the coronavirus lockdown during which urgent dental hubs dealt with emergencies.

Kris Leeson, principal dentist of the Thorpe Dental Group in York, said they had returned to offering routine dentistry but business was not back to normal.

He said the main issue was staffing, because of childcare difficulties.

“Dentistry is a heavily female-run industry. Our dental nurses have children to look after. With schools not fully open, and no wrap-around care, it is difficult."

Kris has three practices but only reopened Copmanthorpe and Woodthorpe Dental centres initially, with plans to reopen Bishopthorpe Dental Centre on July 20.

He said the job was also taking longer with the need to do risk assessments with clients before visits, and to allow fallow periods between patients - one of the major changes to day-to-day dental practice in response to COVID-19.

Kris said the national guidance was to leave a room for an hour after an appointment.

"A half-hour filling appointment is approaching one-and-a-half hours. We are social distancing within the practice and that also slows it down as well."

Woodthorpe Dental was set up as an urgent dental centre during the lockdown period, which had enabled them to 'hit the ground running' with the reopening of practices, said Kris.

He is keen to reach a stage where people are happy to return.

“It is getting better. A few weeks ago nobody wanted to come in."

He said safety measures were still in place, with high-risk patients seen at the beginning of the day for their safety.

"We know no one else has been in the building other than staff. We still have a locked door policy. You can’t just walk in. We still take temperatures at the door and ask people to sanitise their hands when they walk in.

"We are trying to get the message out there that practices are up and running. The codes of practice we put together for the urgent centre are up and running. We are back to normal."

He said they had not been charging to cover PPE costs.

“We have made the outlay already and because we are using reusable products it is not an ongoing cost.

"Some dentists are charging for PPE. It is not a criticism. It has increased costs massively. We decided not to charge because our patients have kept the business going for the last three months. They pay into a plan and have continued paying into that. They have helped to keep the business going. Their money has gone to cover PPE while we were closed."