Dental Care During the COVID-19 Pandemic
By Dr. Jeff Shnall
Beech Dental 350 Beech Ave Lower Suite Toronto Ontario
Mach 22, 2020
I am putting out this brief article to help during this urgent public health situation.
1 The number one goal is to slow and ultimately stop the spread of the virus. The fewer places you visit during the weeks and likely months ahead, the better. This includes visiting the dentist.
2 This is a serious health emergency we are all facing. We need to keep the virus transmission down so that doctors and nurses in our hospitals are not overrun with COVID-19 cases. There will not be enough hospital staff to treat sick patients if the number of patients rise too high (spike), too quickly.
2 Dentists in Toronto, Ontario and most places throughout North America (I hope) have been asked to stop performing all routine treatment and provide emergency and urgent care only. This measure is to limit the spread of the virus. This measure will be for many weeks and more likely several months until the pandemic is contained.
3 If you are in dental pain and you do not have flu symptoms (especially fever, sore throat, dry cough), you should contact your dentist.
When necessary, gowns, face shields and N95 masks are worn by dentists and their assistants while you are being treated. This will minimize the chance of virus transmission.
4 The sad reality about the virus causing COVID-19 is that people can be carrying the virus without yet having symptoms. We still don't know how contagious people are if they are not yet exhibiting symptoms. That is why we have to treat every patient as if they are a carrier of the virus and also is why we are limiting dental care to urgent treatment only.
When we remove decay from a tooth with a drill or even a laser, aerosol spray is created around the tooth. You can liken it to aerosol spray from a spray can.
Dentists have high volume suction that contains the spray to a degree, but not entirely. If you are carrying the virus either knowingly or unknowingly, the virus could be present in this spray, depending on the procedure we are doing.
So, the only time we want to create this spray is when it is absolutely necessary. Hence only emergency care.
5 If you chip a tooth or lose a filling, unless it is cutting your tongue or causing you pain, it would be best to give it a bit of time and assess yourself how the tooth is doing.
You don't have to run to the phone the moment your tooth chips or a filling is lost. Very often, a tooth in this situation will stay quiet for many weeks or months without treatment, especially if the tooth was not decayed to begin with, although that would be difficult for you to self-assess.
6 If you feel ill (flu symptoms) or have been in close contact with a COVID-19 patient and you live in Ontario, Canada you can visit the website rcdso.org for a list of dentists in the Province treating patients with an active case of the virus or have been in close contact with a suspected carrier. If you live outside of Ontario, Canada consult you local Dental provincial or state dental association or public health department for guidance.
7 The best way to keep out of the dentist chair during these weeks and months is to brush at least twice daily, floss or Waterpik or do whatever you normally do to maintain dental health.
8 Keep the candy, pop and juice to a minimum. Avoid eating caramels, toffee or sticky candies like Jujubes or Gummy Worms. All of these candies can pull out fillings, crowns and other cemented dental work. There are other articles on my website that discuss diet tips and cavity prevention.
9 Dentists in Ontario have been asked to use their discretion in what constitutes emergency care. There are too many dental situations to cover in one article i.e. a lost crown, broken denture.
See the bottom of this article for the most recent guidelines given to dentists in Ontario, Canada by our licensing body to direct us re dental treatment during the pandemic.
10 When in doubt, call or email your dentist for guidance if problems should arise. Every case and situation is unique.
Let's hope that as a society we all get through this okay and that it can be a turning point in making our communities a better place once this pandemic is behind us.
Dr, Jeff Shnall Beech Dental 350 Beech Ave Lower Suite Toronto, Canada M4e 3T8
416-681-2886 Website: BeechDental.com Email: BeechDental@gmail.com