P.E.I. dentists can offer more services Monday, return to general dentistry June 12

Phase 4 of P.E.I.'s ease back of public health measures will see dental hygienists return to their practices

More protective equipment, change in procedures

No tools that could send the virus into the air will be used by hygienists when they return to work as of June 12. (Getty Images)

When the province enters Phase 3 on Monday, changes are coming to what services dental offices can offer on P.E.I. 

Currently, dental clinics on the Island are only able to offer emergency procedures to treat pain, trauma or swelling. With the limited scope that dentists can currently work under, only some treatment options are available. 

But, come June 1, that scope is expanded for dentists. 

"We can do some smaller things now like specifically re-cement anterior crowns, provide some care to patients that may need bite planes adjusted or possibly dentures adjusted," said Mike Connolly, a Charlottetown dentist and president of the Dental Association of P.E.I. 

"We also have the opportunity to provide treatment that mitigates potential dental problems down the road so it could mean large temporary fillings being placed in situations that, you know, we can do something now and it will prevent a problem from occurring to the patient months down the road." 

Mike Connolly, a Charlottetown dentist and president of the Dental Association of P.E.I., says starting Monday, dentists can adjust dentures and put temporary fillings in. (Travis Kingdon/CBC)

It won't be a return to general dentistry just yet. 

"We're not doing elective care. We're still doing care that basically really needs to be done. These are patients that are in great need," he said. 

Dentists will still be avoiding using tools that could send the virus into the air. But, in situations where it is required, dentists will be taking extra care to make sure everyone stays safe, said Connolly.

Patients will be screened before coming into the office, he said, given a questionnaire to fill out about their health and have their temperatures taken before the appointment begins. Dentists themselves will be adding a face shield and gown to their regimen of personal protective equipment (PPE).

Some dental offices are taking additional measures, like Rochford Family Dental in Charlottetown, that is asking patients not to use their cellphones inside the office.

"Someone can sanitize their hands and then if they grab their phone their hands are no longer clean, because the likelihood of a cellphone being disinfected and cleaned regularly is quite low," said Dr. Lynne-Marie Nantes, a dentist at Rochford Family Dental.

And Rochford Family Dental will be prioritizing patients that tried to get an appointment when their doors were closed. 

Patients will be screened prior to their appointments. (Travis Kingdon/CBC)

"They're the priority. And then once that is looked after we're able to move in to different procedures such as elective procedures with a specific protocol in place. Every office will do that a bit differently based on their schedule and their staff and what works for them. But it definitely does open up to us being able to do different procedures," said Nantes.

On Monday, dentists can start booking elective procedures for June 12 and after, when hygienists are also back on the job. 

"That's basically full on dentistry, but it's going to look a lot different," said Connolly. 

Hygienists return

Heather Cassidy, president of the Dental Hygienists Association of P.E.I., said when members do return to work, they won't be able to use any tools that create aerosols and could potentially send the virus into the air, like an ultrasonic scaler. 

"When you're at the dentist that's the tool that vibrates and makes that loud little piercing sound and sprays water. That is listed as the number one bad aerosol producer in a dental office," said Cassidy. 

Instead, hygienists will have to scale patients teeth manually with hand tools. This isn't a drastic change, said Cassidy, since hygienists often use both methods throughout their day. But, relying solely on hand tools comes with other issues. 

"Unfortunately hand-scaling does create more fatigue … and the way the patients will be screened and spaced out will probably also be just like your hairdresser. You will be able to see less people on a day," said Cassidy.

And the required PPE for hygienists is changing as well. The profession normally has members wearing gloves, masks and eye protection. But, now other items are being added to the list. 

Heather Cassidy, president of the P.E.I. Dental Hygienists Association, says members will be wearing more personal protective equipment when they return to work. (Submitted by Heather Cassidy)

"We are also going to be adding a face shield to that," said Cassidy, "to protect us from any sprays and anything in the air.

"A protective gown will be going over our scrub wear. That gown will be about knee length, long-sleeved, so that we can tuck the cuffs into our gloves." 

Some offices are asking hygienists to watch educational videos on the proper way to put on, and take off PPE, said Cassidy

Cassidy said members of the association are excited to get back into the office, but the big focus among members right now is ensuring that there are appropriate levels of PPE in the industry.

"I think many of us are ready just to get back to work. It's been a long downtime," she said.

"Just making sure that the PPE that we're able to get, is the major importance right now. We always wore a mask and gloves, but now those products are being used in different industries.... So getting availability and making sure that the cost is not going up through the roof is a problem as well."

More from CBC P.E.I.


Travis Kingdon is a journalist with CBC P.E.I. He moved to the Island from Toronto in the spring of 2019.


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