Dental offices will be allowed to re-open to routine care in the coming weeks with enhanced protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19, announced Premier John Horgan Wednesday as part of his “restart plan” for enhanced social and economic activities.
The dental office experience will feel and look a bit different and care methods will change slightly, said Alastair Nicoll, head of the B.C. Dental Association’s COVID-19 task force.
The College of Dental Surgeons of B.C., which regulates dentists, said it welcomed the news and is preparing to put in place guidance for dental offices.
“We have always had requirements in place to prevent the transmission of infectious disease in dental offices,” said Dr. Chris Hacker, the Registrar/CEO for CDSBC via email. “We will continue to provide guidance to our registrants that is supported by evidence as it is available.”
Based on the restart plan, dental offices will be implementing measures based on broader workplace guidelines, such as augmented hygiene and physical distancing between patients.
Nicoll echoed Hacker, stating, “dentists have been dealing with the risk of cross infection for years.
“You have to go back to H1N1, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis C, various influenza outbreaks. So we are well used to rigorous sterilization protocols.”
The first thing to understand, said Nicoll, is that priority of backlogged treatments will go to more urgent needs.
So, routine cleanings may have to wait depending on your office priorities.
Nicoll said patients will likely be asked about their health by phone before an appointment.
Bookings will be spread out to avoid patients crossing paths. Waiting rooms will not have magazines or toys and you’ll likely go straight to the dentist’s chair upon arrival after speaking to front desk staff from behind a plexiglass barrier.
Dentists and hygienists, said Nicoll, will likely wear gowns and face shields, which will allow dentists to continue to wear special eyeware.
Also, Nicoll said it’s possible dentists will avoid cleaning tools that spray water and air, so expect more scaling with hand tools.
“It may be prudent not to use ultrasonic instruments,” said Nicoll.
But little has been stated from the government about how non-urgent healthcare services such as dental, physiotherapy, chiropractic and diagnostic and imaging services will be conducted specifically.
And so, as a health regulator, the CDSBC’s role is to set out expectations and guidance, in keeping with Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry’s direction, that ensures the safety of both patients and the dentists, dental therapists and certified dental assistants who are providing necessary care during COVID-19, stated the college by email.
“CDSBC will continue to take our lead from the Provincial Health Officer and other public health experts as we start planning for the expansion of dental services,” the college added.
“We are looking forward to patients having increased access to in-person elective dental care in a safe environment,” said Dr. Hacker.