Why is Coronavirus Closing Dental Offices?
In an unprecedented situation, it can be confusing to see how many people respond in many different ways. Because we live in an age of technology and connectedness, people are able to share information almost instantaneously. When you combine that ability with the fact that our understanding of this new virus is incomplete and changing almost hourly, there can be a lot of conflicting information.
Until the law requires the closure of businesses, many will elect to remain open for business as usual. At Premier Dental of Ohio, we have decided against that. Here’s why.
Doing Our Part to Stop the Spread
The limited information that our government and medical professionals do have regarding the COVID-19 pandemic suggests that the only way to stop the spread of this virus is by eliminating all unnecessary person-to-person interactions. Group gatherings increase the risk of transmission. This is why schools and churches are closed.
It is also apparent that the closer the contact with another person and the longer the time you spend in contact with them, the higher the risk is for disease transmission. The latest information suggests that many people are infected and contagious without showing any symptoms at all.
In the dental office, the close nature of all dental treatments and the length of time required for them put both the providers and patients at a high risk for disease transmission. Many dental treatments, which require the use of a high-speed handpiece (drill), create an aerosol, which could increase contamination of all surfaces and the risk of transmission to anyone in the room.
Our desire is to protect each patient and each Premier Dental team member from the risk of infection and to do our part to stop the spread of this pandemic virus.
Protection of our Medical Colleagues
Another important reason we have chosen to limit our services is to reduce our use of personal protective equipment (PPE). This includes the gloves, masks, gowns and head coverings worn by medical and dental professionals. In a potential shortage of these PPE items, we recognize that the need for them in the medical sector is much greater than in the dental sector.
By limiting the number of patients we see and eliminating elective dental procedures, we can reduce our overall usage of personal protective equipment and protect its supply for medical personnel on the front lines of the fight against this pandemic.
Our decision to remain available to treat dental emergencies also serves to protect our medical colleagues by reducing the number of patients seeking emergency care for toothaches and dental infections. Rather than closing our doors and forcing patients to go to the already over-burdened emergency rooms when a dental emergency arises, we will work with our patients to help them receive the care they need in our offices.
Emergency Services Still Available
That being said, we understand that dental emergencies still occur and require treatment. We are committed to caring for our patients and providing any emergency treatment that may become necessary. Again, we want to limit the number of patients who enter each of our premises, so it is important for you to understand what is a dental emergency, and what is not.
What Constitutes a Dental Emergency?
There are a few situations that need urgent treatment in dentistry. These definitely fall into the category of emergency and require immediate attention.
- Dental infection with facial swelling – We cannot stress how urgent this situation can be. When a tooth infection spreads into the surrounding tissues, causing visible swelling, you are in danger of serious illness and even death. Dental infections have the potential of spreading into the airway, bloodstream and/or brain tissues. It is essential that you seek a dentist’s care as soon as you notice any visible swelling.
- Injury causing a tooth to be knocked out – When someone has an entire tooth knocked out, time is of the essence. In order to get the best potential outcome for reimplanting the tooth, you must see a dentist immediately. And bring the tooth with you!
- An injury that breaks a tooth, causing nerve exposure – Common among children, when a tooth suffers a large chipping or breaking, it is possible to expose the nerve within the tooth. If this happens, you will see a small red spot or active bleeding from the center of the tooth. This open exposure is an avenue for a dangerous infection and must be addressed immediately.
What Does Not Constitute a Dental Emergency
There are several situations that do not require immediate attention.
- Sensitivity or inconsistent pain – While these symptoms can be uncomfortable, they do not constitute a dental emergency. The types of treatment required to treat these symptoms would fall under the “elective” category at this time.
- A chipped tooth that causes no pain or nerve exposure – We know that this can be a cosmetic problem, but in the absence of pain or exposed nerve, this is also not an emergency.
- Minor gum swellings, canker sores, fever blisters, etc . . . – Many of these can be treated with over-the-counter rinses and medications and do not require an office visit. If you have a specific question about a situation like this, please call the office, and we can talk you through the best approach to home treatment.
How to Obtain Emergency Services
If you do develop a dental emergency during these uncertain times, please call your nearest Premier Dental of Ohio location immediately. Our hours will be altered, and various locations may offer differing services. We ask for your patience as we strive to meet the unique needs of this unusual time. See our official statement for more information on our COVID-19 response.