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Yukon dentists look for guidance to resume more services

Yukon's dentists say they don't have much to smile about these days — the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a bite out of their business, and they're anxious for some guidance from territorial authorities.

'We're probably less than 90 per cent of what we usually are practicing at,' says head of dental association

'We're probably less than 90 per cent of what we usually are practicing at,' said Dr. Colin Nash, president of the Yukon Dental Association. (Submitted by Colin Nash)

Yukon's dentists say they don't have much to smile about these days — the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a bite out of their business, and they're anxious for some guidance from territorial authorities.

"We're probably less than 90 per cent of what we usually are practicing at," said Dr. Colin Nash, who practices at the Whitehorse Dental Clinic and is also president of the Yukon Dental Association.

"So yeah, it's rather grim on the business side of things."

In March, Yukon's chief medical officer ordered dentists to suspend all non-urgent treatment until further notice. Nash said there are ongoing discussions about easing those restrictions, but there's no firm plan yet.

Yukon's reopening plan, presented on Friday, offers little detail beyond saying that restrictions may now begin to be lifted on non-emergency dental services, "based on public health assessment." It does not explain the conditions under which those assessments will be granted.

"Part of the difficulty for [the Yukon government] is they don't have anybody on staff that you know, has the expertise to deal with dental regulation, to be honest," Nash said.

"And in the Yukon we don't have a dental college as they do in the provinces."

Nash said clinics are still offering what's considered emergency care and urgent care. He said emergency care includes dealing with potentially life-threatening conditions, such as infections or significant oral and facial trauma. Urgent care might deal with severe dental pain from a deep cavity or a fractured tooth.

In March, Yukon's chief medical officer ordered dentists to suspend all non-urgent treatment until further notice. (CBC)

He's concerned though about things that aren't considered urgent, until they're left untreated.

"Things left too long, you know, that might be classified as non-essential at the start, they're going to progress and eventually become an urgent or emergency situation in some cases," Nash said.

Another concern is that travel restrictions are preventing dentists from travelling to communities to provide care as they normally would. That means anybody with urgent care needs is coming to Whitehorse.

Nash said he's hopeful that a plan can be worked out soon to determine how to ramp up more dental services. 

"As things have progressed, we have been looking for some guidance from regulatory authorities," he said.

"It has been a little bit slow to this point."

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