After getting the green light from the provincial government, dentists will reopen their offices Wednesday to patients waiting for much-needed dental work.
“It’s been almost eight weeks since the suspension of regular treatment. Since then we’ve been dealing with just dental emergencies,” said Paul Blanchard, executive director of the New Brunswick Dental Society.
Dentists and their staff are preparing to see patients while following the appropriate guidelines provided by the department of public health.
Blanchard said dentists will initially prioritize patients with urgent dental care needs.
“We had sort of a rigid definition of what an emergency was. So it was facial or vehicle trauma or prolonged bleeding or some swelling or pain that was unmanageable.”
Blanchard said anything else wasn’t treated in the office but could have been treated with a prescription.
“So now we have a bit of a backlog there and we want to make sure in the first two to three weeks that dentists really take the time to make their resources available to treat those patients.”
Pre-screening before visit
Patients will be pre-screened through a call from the office to make sure they have no symptoms related to COVID-19. They may also have their temperature taken when they arrive.
“They’re going to be asked to wear a community mask. We’re going to be asking people to stay in their car when they get to the dental office and to phone to let them know they’re there.”
Blanchard said this is to avoid having people in the waiting room.
“So there’s going to be a lot of things happening even before you set foot inside in the dental office.”
Unless it’s a young child or someone who needs assistance, people should go into the office alone.
Dental hygienists will not resume cleanings and preventative dental care until June 1.
Blanchard said the slow or gradual opening will allow dentists and staff get used to the new protocols with physical distancing in the workplace.
“Initially, we’re not seeing a business as usual approach. We’re certainly looking at this as a gradual return. Initially it could be 30 to 60 per cent of what a dental office might have been doing pre-COVID.”
Blanchard said they are also telling dentists to space the scheduling more than they normally would to make sure there is no interaction between patients.
For anyone with concerns about treatment and the transmission of COVID-19, the province said at a technical briefing on May 8 that dental clinics were experts in hygienic and sterilization practices. If proper screening protocols are followed, the risk of transmission would be very low.