How is the Dental Industry Coping with the Coronavirus Pandemic?

The American Dental Association advised dentists to provide only emergency care to patients because of the coronavirus pandemic. Non-emergency dental procedures should be postponed for at least three weeks.

Some treatments that should be rescheduled, except in the case of an emergency, include root canals, routine fillings, and polishing. Coronavirus represents a “major risk” to the financial stability of dental practices because of staff shortages, patients not coming in, or even potential practice closures if patients or staff should become infected.

In response, dentists across the country are changing their working hours to comply with ADA guidelines. They are either reducing hours or even closing down completely. The reduced hours and closures hurt not only dentists but their employees as well.

Dental workers have been doing a great job of protecting their patients with the best infection control practices. They are using personal protective equipment, such as gloves, masks, gowns, and protective eyewear, which means better protection for dental office staff and patients. The use of disinfectants, one-time-use disposable materials, and up-to-date sterilization practices have all helped make safe dental visits possible.

The news about the virus usually makes people even more nervous about going to the dentist, so they must reassure both staff and patients that standard precautions and infection control are sufficient to prevent the spread of the virus. Also, keep in mind that many people, including patients and even some of the staff, might be receiving conflicting information or may not even have basic, necessary information.

An emergency that should be treated immediately can include extractions, chipped teeth that could be dangerous and pierce your lip, or a recent root canal that is causing pain. Still, nearly every dental office needs to reschedule 90% of their work.

A statewide shutdown of all non-essential businesses is also recommended. However, postponing non-emergency dental procedures for three weeks is only a recommendation of the ADA and not an order by the state Board of Dentistry.

Dentists could decide for themselves not to accept the advice and determine what kinds of procedures should be done sooner rather than later.

For employee and patient safety, dental workers should practice general precautions that don’t depend on the situation, such as using high-speed suction and clamps with rubber to cover a patient’s mouth, leaving only one tooth exposed —in order to reduce spray.

A face shield, a surgical mask, rubber gloves, and safety glasses are some of the other tools normally used to keep the practice hygienic. Dental instruments should be either disposable or autoclaved to kill any virus or bacteria.

Dentists still practice general precautions. But with everything that is going on, they must double down to make sure everything’s sterilized and disinfected if they want to stay in business.

Distributors of dental equipment and services have not seen any change in business yet, but they will probably also be affected in the near future.