DENTISTS have called for additional funds from the Scottish Government as they face “even greater challenges” as they prepare to reopen.

The British Dental Association (BDA) welcomed the announcement from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon that they can start to see patients with urgent care needs from Monday.

But the organisation fears a combination of reduced patient numbers and increased costs could prove “fatal” for many practices.

It added shortages of personal protective equipment could limit patient numbers.

Most practices in England have operated at less than a quarter of their previous level since their return to routine dental care, it said, to ensure social distancing and infection control protocols are adhered to.

According to the BDA, less than a 10th (8%) of these practices say they can maintain financial sustainability on this basis - with the organisation now calling for “meaningful help” from Scottish ministers to keep those north of the border going.

David McColl, chairman of the organisation’s Scottish Dental Practice Committee, said: “We finally have a date for the return of face-to-face care but it arrives after weeks of waiting for clear guidance.”

“Practices should never have been left in limbo but now face even greater challenges as they reopen their doors.

“Dentists have been looking forward to welcoming our patients back into our practices but already we are hearing from colleagues who simply can’t afford to reopen, given the limits of the current Government support package.”

He warned: “Without meaningful help increased costs and lower patient numbers could prove fatal for practices across Scotland.”

Ms Sturgeon said Scotland’s chief dental officer Tom Ferris has been “working very closely with the dental profession”.

She said: “Dentists, for obvious reasons, have been considered to be high risk of transmission in the last few weeks but we are now able to move forward thanks in large part to the work the chief dental officer and the profession have been doing, reopening on Monday initially for urgent care but hopefully quickly after that to get back to normal.

“I know there will be many people, perhaps not relishing a visit to the dentist, but will have plans to catch up on treatment that they missed.

“The dentists will work hard to do that and they will have the support - as they always do - from the Scottish Government to the extent that they need it in the weeks ahead.”

Earlier this week, the Scottish Dental Practice Owners group, which represents 700 practices caring for more than 3.5 million patients across Scotland, said a poll of members found 52% are considering shutting until the Scottish Government provides further funding support ahead of reopening.

An earlier survey from the group found 91% of respondents were unsure if their practices would reopen after lockdown, with 51% saying they face bankruptcy and 40% unsure how they will cope when restrictions are eased.