Why a coronavirus second wave won’t be affecting dentists in Canada
Updated: Nov 4, 2020
Written By David Silverberg
The numbers are staggering: In the US, the average of new daily infections is now at its highest point of the pandemic, reaching 481,372 cases as of October 26. Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, said the latest national data showed Canada was averaging 2,488 newly confirmed cases and 74,719 tests conducted per day, Of those tested, she said 3.1 per cent came to be a positive diagnosis. “Outbreaks continue to contribute to COVID-19 spread in Canada,” Tam said in a statement, according to Global News.
What does this news of a coronavirus second wave mean for dentists in Canada? If they were responsible and took the proper precautions when they were allowed to reopen several months ago, it shouldn’t be as harrowing during this fall and winter.
What did dentists in Canada do to safeguard their work spaces? As we reported in this post, public health guidance and dental associations offered dentists a path forward to practice safely during the first COVID-19 wave. Upon reopening, dental offices should, for example, ask all patients to answer a series of questions to ensure they aren't showing COVID-19 symptoms. Their temperature should also be taken. Patients have had to wear their masks in waiting rooms and been asked to come alone, unless small children require parental accompaniment. Dentists have also been wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) for appointments, which isn’t far off from what they normally do when they peer into someone’s mouth.
Depending on the dentist, there may be a higher use of face-shields, especially if the dentist or hygienist is immuno-compromised.
The CDC also advises: “During aerosol generating procedures DHCP should use an N95 respirator or a respirator that offers an equivalent or higher level of protection such as other disposable filtering face piece respirators, powered air-purifying respirators (PAPRs), or elastomeric respirators.”
Appointments have also been spaced out to minimize patients crowding waiting rooms, despite the guidance on those rooms focused on physical distancing chairs by at least six feet.
An Alberta Health Services study stresses how important it is to sanitize equipment and to follow the proper measures for the safety of all dentists in Canada: “Dental health professionals may encounter occupational risk of COVID-19 exposure, and that patients also may be at risk for COVID-19 infection as a result of exposure during aerosol producing dental procedures performed on other patients, particularly if precautions are not observed.”
A coronavirus second wave isn’t changing the game yet What should ease any patient anxiety is a recent statistic that found less than 1% of dentists in the United States were found to have COVID-19, and that number is likely similar, if not better, in Canada, which has reported a lower positivity rate. “Because of these findings and because we have no known reports of transmission of COVID-19 during the provision of dental care, we feel that resuming dental visits is important,” said Dr. Mia Geisinger, professor of periodontology at the UAB School of Dentistry and a co-author of the report.
What may be frustrating to some dental professionals though is that some patients are skipping appointments, perhaps fearful of contracting COVID-19 at the dentist’s office. Or they may not have the funds allocated for dental care as they once did if their employment has been affected by pandemic-related lockdowns.
This isn’t an issue particular to the coronavirus second wave but rather the pandemic as a whole. In the US, young children are missing out on their regular check-ups the most, a report found. “As of early October, visits for children two years old and younger were down 18% compared to pre-pandemic levels, while visits for children 3-to-5 years old were down 10%.”
A dentist interviewed in this report cited the danger of letting those appointment dates slip by. "All patients have bacteria in their gums, in the pockets in their gums. And if those are left to go a long period of time and you've got that tartar on your teeth that only a hygienist can scale off for you, then you're risking developing further increased periodontal disease.” What should dentists in Canada do if this same waffling attitude prevails with their patients? It’s recommended to continue calling patients to remind them about their annual checkups, and to ensure there is proper signage and notifications online that the office is open for business. Highlighting the precautions taken in light of the pandemic will also reassure patients wondering about safety in the dental chair. As we noted in this blog post, investing in engaging with your patients online can reap many rewards.
Still, some dentists in Canada may be facing a less busy appointment list compared to pre-pandemic times, so it’s only common sense that some professionals may be seeking extra income during this difficult era. Now is the right time to sell your dental scrap gold and silver and palladium to buyers such as Muzeum Dental Refining, thanks to the price of gold increasing impressively over the past few months.