If you had an upcoming dentist appointment in the next couple of weeks, cross it off the calendar because you won’t be going in for a regular teeth cleaning anytime soon.
The Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario (RCDSO) announced March 15 that they strongly recommend all non-essential dental services be suspended and only emergency treatments should continue due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We were one of the first professions to be laid off because our profession was ranked number one most dangerous for transmission,” said Marissa Corak, a dental hygienist at Grover dental care in Hamilton.
Since dentists are constantly working inside people’s mouths, and the coronavirus spreads easily between people via “respiratory droplets” or saliva, it puts anyone in the dental healthcare world at risk.
Corak’s last day of work was over three weeks ago on Monday, March 16. She left early that day knowing her office would be closing down for two weeks, “but little did we know it would be much longer and have no idea when we will be back,” she said.
Her office in Hamilton has been closed since then and doesn’t perform emergency treatments because they don’t have the proper N95 masks and other necessary equipment; only a select few locations have them.
Emergency dental visits include “Trauma – an injury to the mouth and face, severe infection, such as an abscess or swelling, bleeding that continues for a long time and dental pain that can’t be managed by over-the-counter medications such as Tylenol or Advil,” according to the Ontario Dental Association (DHO.)
Corak didn’t know what to think when the RCDSO made the statement that they only recommend, not require, all non-essential dental treatment to stop, so she was apprehensive about going into work on her last day.
“I still worked the Monday ,March 16 and felt very uncomfortable regardless of the stricter screening questions we were asking patients, such as if they have a cough or traveled outside of Canada in the last 14 days.”
Other than emergency procedures continuing, teledentistry is something dentists can use on Ontario patients. According to the RCDSO, teledentistry is providing dental care from a distance using a variety of video and audio equipment.
Their website doesn’t specify which dentists in the province have access to this technology, so one would have to call and ask their office.
This distanced dentistry includes a live two-way video chat between dentist and patient, remote patient monitoring, mobile health and “store-and-forward” which is when the dentist uses photos, medical records etc. and asses them in a live interaction. The cost (if there is one) of these services is not posted, but Corak is unsure that it would even be of any use.
“Video calls wouldn’t be effective in my opinion. There are very little treatments to be done at home if someone’s in pain. They would need to go see a dentist at an emergency clinic to get the proper antibiotic or procedure done,” she said.
If you do have an appointment scheduled for the next coming weeks, call your dentist office and they will either reschedule at a later date or cancel for the time being until the office reopens.