But dentists, like other medical professionals, are still able to see patients in critical condition at this time.
*UPDATED: 3/20 5 pm* GOV. PLACES MANDATES ON DENTAL OFFICES: All hospitals, ambulatory surgical ctrs, office surgery centers, dental, orthodontic & endodontic offices & other health care practitioners’ offices are directed to immediately cease performing elective svcs til May 8. pic.twitter.com/nLVrUSF69Q— Florida Dental Assoc (@FDADental) March 20, 2020
“We have our part to do too because we want to try to keep patients who might be in an emergency situation from going to the emergency room to see dental care and intermingling with patients that are going to the emergency room for treatment of symptoms of COVID-19,” said Dr. Rudy Liddell, President of the Florida Dental Association.
To further educate dentists, the association hosted a webinar featuring control protocols and procedures that could be followed during the COVID-19 outbreak, along with a page dedicated to resources regarding the virus.
The ADA recognizes the unprecedented and extraordinary circumstances dentists face related to #COVID19. The ADA recommends dentists nationwide postpone elective procedures for the next three weeks. Please visit https://t.co/VmvCLo4oS9 for full statement and latest information. pic.twitter.com/PTi4G19N2b— ADA (@AmerDentalAssn) March 16, 2020
Though there is no exact definition of what a dental emergency is, the American Dental Association has created a guide to give some clarifications. Such emergent or urgent cases include dental or facial trauma, tooth fractures, uncontrolled bleeding, dental pain or swelling that could be caused by or led to infection, and conditions that could block the patients’ airways.
For his part, Liddell considers emergency procedures to be based on the severity the condition could have on the patient. For example, if someone has a cavity that could become infected before the order ends, then they could come into the office. If a tooth chips and is sharp enough to harm tissue, the patient can visit.
Liddell suggests all the patients ask themselves a question before they go to a clinic: is your problem something that you think you can endure for a period of 45 days?
“If the answer to that question is yes, I can, I can tolerate this, then they won't be seen,” said Liddell. “But if they say no, this thing is killing me, my tongue is swollen, I can't eat, that is something that we would see.”
And while common procedures like dental cleanings and check-ups aren't treated as emergencies, there can still be exception. Take for example, said Liddell, somone whose cardiologist needs to make sure a patient's mouth is disease-free before prescribing them a medicine.
“So that's somebody that by getting their teeth cleaned, it affects their overall health,” he said.
The best thing for patients to do is contact their dentist and ask whether their situation falls under an emergency.
Some patients have concerns about possible exposure to coronavirus while going to a dentist. But Liddell says since the AIDS epidemic, the practice of dentistry has greatly improved its sanitation, so they should be prepared for the virus.
“All our rooms are completely disinfected with disinfectants that are approved to kill tuberculosis viruses,” said Liddell. “All of our instruments are either disposable or heat sterilizable and all of our staff wear personal protective equipment with every patient. Because of the infection control procedures that we have in place in our dental offices, the dental office will remain a safe place to receive treatment.”
For updates regarding dental procedures in Florida during coronavirus, visit the Florida Dental Association’s coronavirus page.