An army of dentists is being redeployed to join the front-line fight against Covid-19 after non-urgent dentistry was suspended amid the virus pandemic.
The Chief Dental Office for England said they would be asked to help at hospitals being built to boost critical care and other parts of the NHS.
And this year's contracts were being redrawn so dentists refusing to be redeployed would lose their NHS pay.
But the British Dental Association said it should be on a voluntary basis only.
And it called for protections for any staff at higher risk.
Mick Armstrong, who chairs the BDA, added: "The profession stands ready and willing to support the national effort to fight this pandemic with any workable emergency plan."
The letter, from Chief Dental Officer Sara Hurley, said the NHS contracts were being renegotiated to:
- maintain cash flow
- provide emergency dental services during the outbreak
- free up staff to fight the virus
The new contracts would "actively enable staff time that is no longer required for routine dental activity to be diverted to support service areas with additional activity pressures due to Covid-19", it said.
"As part of the funding support, the NHS expects that dental practices will fully support the redeployment of professionals and staff working in dental services to support the wider NHS.
"In particular, we ask staff contact details are made available immediately and for practices to actively support any national or local calls for help.
"This will include helping to staff the new Nightingale Hospital that is being established in London and other similar facilities that may be established over the coming weeks."
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