Dentists to resume full services next week but visits will look different, association says
Starting June 1 dentist can begin seeing non-urgent cases, offer elective and preventative treatments
Dentists will be able to resume all services starting next week as part of Phase 2 in the reopening of businesses in Manitoba, but it may take a while before it's back to normal.
"Given that Manitoba dental offices have been largely quiet for the past several weeks, they may need a few days to get organized and get their teams going," said Marc Mollot, president of the Manitoba Dental Association.
"It won't be just flipped on like a light switch on Monday morning."
Dentists were allowed to begin seeing urgent cases again over the past month after being closed for everything except emergencies since the middle of March, when non-essential businesses were shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dental offices can begin welcoming patients back Monday for cleanings and other preventative procedures, but a trip to the dentist will look different from what people are used to, Mollot said.
Many procedures will now require dentists to wear personal protective equipment, like N95 respirator masks, face shields and gowns. Patients also will have to go through screening procedures and there may be longer waits due to increased cleaning protocols.
"So you might expect a slightly longer appointment time, and you'll see them taking precautions that you may not have experienced in the past," Mollot said.
Dentists may also continue to prioritize more urgent cases over elective procedures, depending on each office's backlog and access to protective supplies.
"The challenge we have, much like any other health-care providers, is that we're seeing only a slight easing of the supply lines on PPE [personal protective equipment], so services will take time to get started," he said.
Many common dental procedures involve the creation of dental aerosols — a vapourized mist that includes blood and saliva — which is why increased PPE is needed.
Dentists may continue to avoid some aerosolized procedures and use other methods to reduce risk, Mollot said.
"The dental appointment may take a little bit longer than it has in the past because of those techniques."
Long-term impacts not clear
The association has not had to deal with any clinics closing their doors because of the two-month shutdown yet, but it's still too soon to tell what kinds of increased costs dentist will face and whether those costs will be passed on to patients, Mollot said.
"[Dentists] will be seeing fewer patients in the same amount of time. They'll be using an enhanced amount of PPE, which is quite costly at this point," he said.
"We have not, at this time, suggested that fees would be levied on that particular issue. However, it is something that we're aware of and we're certainly looking into."
Fees are set by individual dentists, he said.
While there may be some delays in getting patients back on track, people should reach out to their dentists and not avoid getting treatments, Mollot said.
"We want to encourage our patients to make sure that if they have questions related to their dental health, or the setback they may feel they have had for the past couple of months without access to care, we'd like them to take it up with their dentist in person," he said.
Some patients may have lost employment benefits during the pandemic and might not return to their dentist, and that impact is still unknown, Mollot said.
"Dental offices can be affected by the economy and most certainly, we expect that there may be some fallout from COVID-19."