NHS England has produced a quick guide designed to offer practical information for dental providers on what they can do to improve unscheduled care for patients over the holiday period and beyond.
Best use of unscheduled dental care services provides checklists to ensure that dental practices provide adequate cover for patients needing care in extended out-of-hours periods.
Eddie Crouch, Vice Chair of the British Dental Association Principal Executive Committee said: “Visiting an accident or emergency department or a GP is usually not the best place to get dental problems treated. With Christmas and New Year around the corner it can really put pressure on vital services when they are most needed for more serious conditions.
"Finding the right place to help with your dental emergency benefits everyone, and this quick guide is designed to do just that."
The guide encourages dental care providers to ensure their NHS Choices profile is up to date with correct opening times and contact details. Practices should also have arrangements in place for emergency dental care over the Christmas and New Year period. This should include having "buddying arrangements" with an NHS contracted dental surgery who will provide emergency appointments on your behalf.
Practices should also have correct "signposting information" available in your practice, on your answerphone and your website for people requiring dental care outside of opening times.
"Get started early, placing posters in waiting rooms and on surgery doors informing what cover and out-of-hours care is available," said Couch.
“Update the details on 111 so that those using this service know when you are available and, if not, who else in your area can help patients get fast and appropriate care.
"Midnight on Christmas Eve is a terrible time to get toothache. By working together we can make the service work better for everyone."