Dentists need PPE on priority basis to be able to resume work as coronavirus lockdown is eased: Expert
As dental offices reopen, dentists will have to be provided with adequate protective equipment for them to operate successfully, says Dr Kami Hoss
The COVID-19 pandemic is taking a huge toll on healthcare in the US, with the medical system straining over rising cases many elective health procedures have been postponed. According to a new Hill-HarrisX survey, participants said they are missing care such as dentist appointments, annual exams, and counseling sessions amid the crisis.
Thirty-five percent of the registered poll voters said they have missed a dentist appointment due to the outbreak, topping the list along with annual medical examination.
Dr Kami Hoss, co-founder and CEO of the Super Dentists, a leading multi-specialty dental practice in the United States, told MEA WorldWide exclusively that the situation might not get worse but not any better after the dental offices reopen.
Dr Hoss also said that dentistry should be prioritized during PPE dissemination because it's one of highest at-risk professions amid the COVID-19 crisis.
“There is still a significant shortage of PPEs across the country and the world and this is while dental offices have been closed throughout the country. As dental offices are now reopening, and considering the fact that dentists are at one of the highest at-risk professions for this virus (for obvious reasons since they work in the mouth), the shortages will be felt even more especially within the dental community.
“Up to this point, the priority for PPEs has been (rightfully so) given to the first-responders and nurses and physicians. However, as dental offices are re-opening, the priorities now need to shift to include dentists and other dental professionals like assistants and hygienists,” said the dentist, whose practice is one of the largest dental groups in Southern California.
Talking about social distancing measures in the dental profession, Dr Hoss said most likely appointments will be given to fewer patients than earlier. He also noted that some dental offices will have to increase their business hours to clear patients backlog that has piled up.
“Offices need to also provide social distancing between patients and dental chairs. Some may have to create ‘virtual waiting rooms’ to allow patients to use their cars as temporary waiting rooms,” he added.
Discussing aerosol-producing procedures, Dr Hoss said depending on the layout of dental offices, dentists may have to modify or eliminate some procedures. “Offices with individual/contained dental treatment rooms can treat patients with aerosol-generating procedures easier. Additionally, many offices including ours have invested in some new high-speed aerosol over-the-patient vacuum system to collect any remaining aerosols that leave the patients’ mouths,” he said.
Continuing further, Dr Hoss said not just the dental patients, the pandemic could have a significant impact on the business of dentistry due to several factors, including the “cost of all the new protocols, equipment, reduction of the number of patients because of social distancing, postponement of certain procedures (cosmetic work for example), increase in the cost of insurance, potential additional equipment’s or protocols in the near future such as rapid COVID-19 testing in dental offices (ADA has requested HHS to allow for us).”
In addition, Dr Hoss advised people who are experiencing unbearable pain and not being able to see their dentist to “avoid doing DIY dental procedures at home because they could cause more harm than good.”
He said patients could seek treatment through other offices that are currently open for emergencies and also insisted on “in-home dental hygiene”.
“Individuals with poor oral hygiene and those who have difficulty with brushing and flossing can use oral rinses, such as hydrogen peroxide and chlorhexidine mouthwash, that are available for home delivery via many online retailers. In addition, to promote oral health, seniors and others with dentures should remove them before sleeping,” Dr Hoss concluded.