Edmonton-area dentists offer free virtual consultations during COVID-19 pandemic

A group of Edmonton dentists are launching a website aimed to provide people with access to dental care during the COVID-19 outbreak. The dentists are volunteering their time, and waiving a fee of $69 dollars for the initial consultation.

‘A lot of patients have been left without access to their usual dentists‘ 

A group of Edmonton dentists are offering a free consultation to patients through a new website. (Keith Burgess/CBC)

A group of Edmonton-area dentists are using technology to offer free dental consultation during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The group hopes its new website will take unnecessary pressure off hospital emergency rooms and offer a service that's currently difficult to obtain.

Earlier this month, Alberta dental clinics were ordered to suspend all appointments and services except for emergencies.

The dentists behind 780dentist.com say their service offers a consultation, which can help patients get pain medication, or put them in touch with a dentist if the situation requires it. 

"We thought a lot of emergency care can be triaged and be provided over the phone," said Dr. Charles Sivanantha who runs Griesbach Dental and is involved with the website. 

"We have a group of dentists on rotation who are going to be available by telephone, text or video consultation to provide that emergency care," he added. 

'We were able to manage his pain' 

780dentist.com is relying on FaceTime video, and photos to provide dental service during the pandemic. 

The website has only been running since last week. 

One of the site's first patients is a man from Fort McMurray who called in after he was hit in the mouth by a wrench. Sivanantha says the patient broke several of his teeth and lacerated his lips. 

Through the website, he was put in touch with a dentist for help. 

"Most of the clinics are closed and he would have been googling and calling at random, sort of hoping to find a dentist that might be open," said Sivanantha.

"We were able to manage his pain and his symptoms immediately and direct him to the clinics that were open.

One of the aims of the website is to make dental care more accessible through initial consultations over the phone, instead of making appointments.

'Teledentistry' as it's called is a big part of where dentists like Sivanantha think the industry is heading.

Recent grad Dr. Surya Madabattula is one of the dentists available on the website. He has only been working in the profession for the last 11 months and splits his time between a clinic in Edson and Griesbach Dental.  He thinks teledentistry will continue to become more popular. 

"It's a big difference moving forward. I definitely think this will make it more accessible even if you don't have the insurance," said Madabattula who feels the use of technology like FaceTime will make it appealing and convenient for many patients. 

The cost for an initial consultation is $69, though the fee is being waived during the pandemic.