Funding given to NHS dentists to equip surgeries with Covid ventilation systems that could allow them to treat more patients is “woefully inadequate,” a Scottish dental leader has said.

David McColl, head of the British Dental Association (BDA) in Scotland, said surgeries had been given grants of £1500 for air filtering equipment but in reality the safest, longer-term solutions would cost around £30k.

The BDA will appear before the Health and Sport Committee next week to outline the continuing challenges that the industry is facing as it navigates appointment backlogs and emergency cases and a new requirement to offer free dental treatment to 18 to 26-year-olds.

“This was an election pledge pulled out of the hat,” said Mr McColl.

READ MORE: Free dental care for everyone under 26 announced by Scottish Government 

“They didn’t consult with their own health department, they didn’t consult with the profession. It just wasn’t a good time to do it.

“In my own practice in Govanhill, we’ve got 12,500 patients registered so we are still only able to see emergency patients and anyone who has concerns about their oral health. We are so far off, starting our re-call programme.

“We’ve got lots and lots of kids registered. If I was to see all of them I would need to use three surgeries full-time for five months.”

Mr McColl said there was a perception that dentistry is “back to normal” and said the government had an important role to play in educating the public that this is not the case. He said patients looking for a routine check-up at his own practice would be looking at January before they could be seen.

“The government is giving out this illusion that we are back to normal. 

“One of the things we will be raising next week is public messaging. I met with Humza Yousaf one week after he was appointed and they were talking about the 100-day guarantee for free dental treatment for 18 to 25-year-olds. And I said, what’s going to be really crucial here is public messaging."

He said staff were facing increasing antagonism from patients due to frustrations over appointment delays, which was leading to some leaving their jobs.

READ MORE: How new techniques are leading to paid-free dentistry for phobic patients 

“We are getting complaints from patients, they can’t understand why they can’t get appointments," he said.

"No one comes in to work to get that level of abuse and that’s what I’m hearing every day and we are going to find it very difficult to replace staff, coming into an environment like that.

“We need the Health Secretary or Nicola Sturgeon to go back on television and tell people that dentistry is not back to normal and to be patient.”

Surgeries are still significantly limited in the number of patients they can see because of Covid operating procedures including air changes while some are still not offering the full range of treatments.

He said his hygienists are now using power scalers but some surgeries are still opting not to because of the level of aerosol produced which means there is a 30-45 minute turnaround time per patient.

Dentists are to receive £7.5 million of funding from the Scottish Government to buy new drills, which do not generate as much aerosol as standard drills, reducing the risks of spreading Covid-19.

“In the surgeries we need about ten changes of air per hour," said Mr McColl.

READ MORE: Scotland records 5,529 new cases of Covid and 30 further deaths 

“We were given a grant for ventilation of £1500 per surgery by the Scottish Government. 

“For us to get up and running - and we are lucky that we have windows we can open - we needed to increase mechanical ventilation. I bought HEPA filters for each surgery and they filter out particulate matter and the virus.

"Two of them are running full-time in every surgery. But that’s an interim measure -it’s not a long-term solution.

“The long-term solution is to get proper mechanical ventilation with air change, ten times per hour.  My practice is in a health centre so I can’t do any works without the say-so of the board and the quote that came in was £30,000 and they gave us £1500 per surgery. "It’s woefully inadequate.”

No one was available for comment at the Scottish Government.