​The British Dental Association (BDA) has applauded swift action from government and the dental industry to unlock stocks of face masks to ease the mounting supply problems facing UK dental services.

Dentist leaders anticipated some larger practices having to scale down activity or prioritise urgent over routine care this week. Shortages have emerged in the wake of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, following panic buying, and moves by China - the world’s leading supplier of hygienic masks - to prioritise unprecedented domestic demand over the export market.

Following BDA concerns earlier this month, the Department of Health and Social Care has indicated significant central stockpiles existed, including reserves built up for the UK’s departure from the European Union.

These stocks formed part of the supply chain for hospitals but were out of reach for primary care providers like dentists and GPs who access products directly from manufacturers and wholesalers.

In an agreement forged in recent days the BDA understands supplies from government stockpiles are now being released to ease immediate pressures.

The face mask shortage has gone global, with dentists in Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and parts of the US reporting major disruptions in supply.

British Dental Association Chair Mick Armstrong: 'The clock was ticking on this face mask shortage, and dentists and patients will applaud decisive action from the industry and government.

'We were clear any solution hinged on getting needed supplies into the hands of high street practices. That process kicks off today, and not a moment too soon.

'Our members are facing difficult choices, and we will continue doing everything in our power to prevent disruption to patient care.'