PEI

P.E.I. dentists adapting to COVID-19, preparing for new normal after pandemic

Your dentist has always had infection control guidelines in place, but COVID-19 is putting the regular operations of the profession on pause, says dentist and Dental Council of P.E.I. registrar Dr. Maurice Coady.

Island dentists have donated much of their personal protective equipment to the health-care system

Dentists are limited to what procedures they perform during the pandemic without proper personal-protective equipment, as many procedures create aerosols, a fine mist that hangs in the air for hours and can carry the novel coronavirus. (Daniel Frank/Pexels)

Your dentist has always had infection control guidelines in place, but COVID-19 is putting the regular operations of the profession on pause, says dentist and Dental Council of P.E.I. registrar Dr. Maurice Coady.

Dental offices across the Island have been closed to regular patients since March 17, when the Dental Council of P.E.I. issued the directive. The original closure was for a 14-day period, but the council has since decided to remain in this state until the chief public health officer says they can reopen.

"Everybody certainly wants to get back to work, but I would say the work will probably not be as it used to be, and maybe not be as it used to be forever," Coady told Island Morning's Mitch Cormier.

"Unless we develop some kind of a herd immunity or whether we develop some kind of a vaccine for this virus."

Currently, P.E.I.'s dental clinics are only open to those requiring emergency care. 

Emergencies only

Coady said if someone requires that care, they should call their dental clinic where their state will be evaluated. They'll be screened for COVID-19 with a thorough health questionnaire and the dentist can determine whether having the patient come in is both urgent and safe.

These are trying times and hopefully we're going to get through this and fix everybody up then.— Dr. Maurice Coady, Dental Council of P.E.I.

Even then, Coady said there are limits to what dentists can do without the proper personal-protection equipment (PPE), much of which is difficult to access during the pandemic.

"Basically, if it were a real emergency with extreme pain or swelling, infection then you're probably looking at an extraction," he said, clarifying that this process does not create an aerosol, which is a fine, airborne mist generated by certain procedures.

"Our dental association has already asked our members to volunteer any of the PPE they have to our hospital and so we're trying to keep this down to a minimum of what we need to use." 

Coady said he's surveyed about a dozen Island dentists and most of them are receiving three or four emergency calls a week, some up to 12. In those cases, Coady said some are emergencies, some can be treated with antibiotics or over-the-counter medications and others are procedures that can wait. 

"Sometimes just talking to the patient on the phone and calm them or relaxing them about what is going on is enough," he said. 

'Fix everybody up then'

Coady said the Dental Association of P.E.I. is also considering the difficult process of setting up an emergency dental community clinic.

Island dentist Dr. Maurice Coady said dentists require N95 masks as part of their personal protective equipment to treat patients during the pandemic. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

This would allow dentists to pool PPE resources in one place and divert people with dental emergencies from the ER.

In the meantime, Coady said dental clinics will likely operate differently when they do eventually reopen. 

He said there will likely be even more infection control and spaced appointments so there's no overlap in the waiting rooms. 

"Patients have been wonderful for understanding that there are some things that aren't true emergencies and are going to have to wait … a lot of them have figured that out on their own and just aren't making the call," he said.

"These are trying times and hopefully we're going to get through this and fix everybody up then."

COVID-19: What you need to know

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Common symptoms include:

  • Fever.
  • Cough.
  • Tiredness.

But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia, which can lead to death.

Health Canada has built a self-assessment tool.

What should I do if I feel sick?

Isolate yourself and call 811. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested. A health professional at 811 will give you advice and instructions.

How can I protect myself?

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Clean regularly touched surfaces regularly.
  • Practise physical distancing.

More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.

More COVID-19 stories from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Island Morning

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