By Rebecca Black, PA
A three-stage plan has been announced for a phased return of dental services in Northern Ireland.
Dental practices were unable to provide a number of procedures at the height of the pandemic because many are "aerosol generating", referring to droplets in the air creating a potential for Covid-19 to spread.
Next week will see the start of a three-stage plan to reopen dental services.
Michael Donaldson, head of dental services at the Health and Social Care Board (HSC), said there is a "significant and growing number of patients with pressing oral health needs".
"A balance must be struck between protecting patients, dental staff and the public from the risk of acquiring the virus and population oral health," he said.
The first stage of the plan starts on Monday June 8 with face-to-face urgent dental care.
Phase two will see practices able to offer non-urgent dental care, but limited to those that are non-aerosol generating.
And the third phase will see a return to routine dental care and aerosol-generating procedures provided in general dental practice, with the use of aerosol-settling periods between patients, surgery cleaning and personal protective equipment.
Mr Donaldson added: "The movement through phases one to three will be guided by the scientific and public health evidence and at this stage it is not possible to put dates on when a transition from phase two to phase three will take place."