On Tuesday, the Alabama Dental Association sent general dentists new protocol guidelines to follow in response to the growing concern about the coronavirus. Within these new guidelines the Alabama Department of Public Health recommends all dental practices to cease any non-urgent dentistry work until the situation can be reassessed April 9.
Dentists’ biggest concern is their patients believing they have been abandoned by stopping routine dental work which is hardly the case, according to local dentist Dr. George Hardy.
“We are not abandoning our patients or even new patients,” said Hardy, who runs a family dentistry in Alexander City. “We are there for them and we want to treat them.”
Dentists are abiding by the protocols set by the state and performing dental work in emergencies.
But due to the pause on routine dental work, at-home oral care is even more crucial. Hardy said if a person is lacking when it comes to at-home care, stepping up now is important.
“Flossing is an important step in the treatment of your teeth which you can do at home,” Hardy said.
Another growing concern dentists fear their patients will have centers around how safe and clean the practices will be during and after the COVID-19 outbreak. Before the coronavirus, dental practices took their sanitation and sterilization very seriously, Hardy said, and if anything, even more focus has been put on that area because of the outbreak.
“I would say dentists are the most cautious when it comes to sanitation and sterilization,” Hardy said. “We take it very seriously not just now but always.”
Hardy said at the start of the outbreak, dental practices started taking preventive measures by limiting the amount of people in the waiting room and asking patients to wait in their vehicles until their allotted appointment time. To even further prevent the spread of germs and sickness, practices also began taking temperatures to ensure patients had no fever as well as asking patients to use a bacterium fighting mouthwash beforehand.
“Coming to the dental offices is still going to be very safe,” Hardy said. “We’ve always taken protective measures for our patients.”
Hardy said he wants to remind his patients washing hands for 20 seconds goes a long way. A way to make sure the handwashing process is long enough is to sing “Happy Birthday” twice.
“It takes 20 seconds of handwashing for the soap and water combination to break down the outer fat molecule of the virus,” Hardy said.
Because the state has mandated against elective dental procedures during this time, below is a list of what is considered a dental emergency:
• Dental pain (including chronic ulcerative mucosal disease management)
• Swelling of gums, face, or neck
• Signs of infection such as a draining site
• Trauma to face, jaw, or teeth, including fractures
• Pre- and post-transplant, radiation, or bisphosphonate patients with oral symptoms (evaluate by telephone screening first)
• Pre-transplant evaluations
• Referrals made by physicians or other healthcare providers
• Potential malignancy
• Broken tooth
• Ill-fitting denture
• Final crown/bridge cementation if the temporary restoration has broken, is lost or is causing gingival irritation