STRIKE action held by teachers has come as "another massive blow" for a Lochgelly dental practice owner who may be forced to delay appointments by up to four months as her staff take time off to care for their children.

Aleks Wasiak, who has owned Canmore Dental Practice for 18 years, says the "unbelievable" need for care is the largest she has ever seen in the 22 years since she graduated university.

And, despite overcoming challenges such as a nationwide dentist shortage earlier this year, she has warned that patients at her Main Street and Dunfermline locations will now face a harsher triage system and weeks waiting to be seen as urgent concerns gain priority.

"In dentistry it has been a horrific year," she explained. "Through problems with restrictions and staff shortages, particularly from a clinicians point of view.

"Dentistry was on hold for so long and as soon as we were able to open the doors and restrictions were lifted we were in an absolute recruitment crisis, there aren't enough dentists in the UK, now we have successfully recruited and we all have nobody to look after our kids! I don't know what the solution is, but I don't think it is fair that it is put on my team.

"I have a team with people who are single parents, people whose partners can't take time off, we don't know what we are going to do.

"Dentistry is often a forgotten voice, our need is no different in the strains on staffing and patient care required, it is no different to what GPs and hospitals are experiencing, but they have a louder voice and patients are aware."

She fears that patients, some of whom have already waited since August for an appointment and whose bookings now may be pushed back to March, will take their frustrations out on her staff members, leading to a potential increase in sick leave due to stress levels.

She added: "There is a national shortage of dentists, that's because during the pandemic they didn't allow dentists from overseas to come and work here, they stopped all the entrance exams, and on top of that they didn't graduate new dentists and there was a large number who moved out of the NHS.

"We were fortunate we did recruit new clinicians, but the problem with all of that is it all impacts patient care and it impacts waiting times and it impacts stress levels for the team.

"We are not superhuman, we are the same as anyone else who goes to work.

"Reception staff mainly are struggling to deal with the public, we understand where people are coming from but there is nothing we can do about it, we can't magic appointments for next week if they have an appointment changed, it is realistic.

"This was just another massive blow, a lot of us do have children of school age, I have three children myself, you do ask 'Who is looking after them?'

"Whether we want to or not there will be patients having to be changed.

"As a business owner I know there is still care needed but like any other parents we now have kids to look after randomly on days teachers are striking."