As the president of the California Dental Association put it, the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is “undoubtedly the single largest crisis we will face in our lifetimes.” As a major public health threat, COVID-19 has forced society to put life on pause and relearn what it means to make do with just the essentials. Unfortunately, due to social distancing measures and an aggressive attempt to stop the spread of the disease in its tracks, many dental offices have been asked to rethink what essential means and to make changes based on the answer.
Routine dental care is essential to a person’s overall health. However, as of this time, social distancing is even more critical. Due to the nature of dental work, the American Dental Association has asked all dentists to reduce hours and cease delivering elective treatments for the foreseeable future. Elective procedures include the following:
At the start of the outbreak, the mandate specified a three-week closure period. However, that is ever-changing based on the rate of COVID-19’s spread and the success of mitigation efforts. Many dental offices have elected to shut the business down entirely during this time.
As for emergency dental care or dental care that can have a significant impact on a person’s overall health outcome, the ADA asks dentists to continue to offer emergency treatment. Per the ADA, allowing dentists to continue to care for emergency patients can help to alleviate the burden that dental emergencies may place on emergency health departments and the overall health care system.
The ADA does not specify what constitutes an emergency dental situation. Rather, it states that, as health care professionals, dentists can use their discretion to make well-informed decisions regarding patients. Many dentists agree that severe toothache, bleeding in the mouth, swelling of the gums, neck, or face, infection and trauma can be reasons for urgent dental care.
When a patient does call a dentist for emergency dental care, most dentists have strict protocols in place, beginning with a thorough screening process. Patients are advised to call ahead of time to explain the symptoms and see if treatment is necessary. When in-person care is necessary, dentists are advised to stagger appointments so as to limit contact between patients and to ensure that everyone within the office remains six feet apart.
Many dentists are also taking advantage of telemedicine platforms. This allows dentists and orthodontists to continue to monitor patients’ health and manage treatment plans during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak.
Everyone across the nation is being forced to learn a new normal during the COVID-19 outbreak. Part of this involves figuring out when it is or is not necessary to come into contact with others, including your health care providers. If you have questions regarding a dental issue, do not hesitate to call a dentist to determine if it constitutes an emergency. For many dentists, the lines are always open.
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