Dental Care Through COVID-19

10 months ago

Healthy Smiles By Rita Tempel, DDS – This column was published in the Gettysburg Times on April 16, 2020

Dental practices have changed dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m going to devote today’s column to share lots of helpful information about the health guidelines established for dental practices. I hope that you don’t need to use them—but it is certainly good to stay informed in the event that you do.

Under the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), The American Dental Association (ADA) and the Pennsylvania Department of Health (PA DOH) dental practices are limited to dental emergencies only.

So, what exactly does that mean? Well, that means you won’t be getting your teeth cleaned by your dental hygienist. And, you won’t be able to get any cosmetic dental work done either. The CDC recently published the following recommendation: “Postpone elective procedures, surgeries, and non-urgent dental visits, and prioritize urgent and emergency visits and procedures now and for the coming several weeks.” 

A COVID-19 dental emergency is defined as the following:

  • A dental emergency is a potentially life threatening situation which requires immediate treatment to stop ongoing tissue bleeding, alleviate severe pain or infection, and address cellulitis and trauma that could potentially compromise a patient’s airway.
  • Urgent dental care would be needed to relieve severe pain and/or risk infection to alleviate the burden on hospital emergency departments.

Examples of dental emergencies include:

  • trauma to the mouth resulting in a lost or fractured tooth
  • cellulitis or a large soft tissue infection with swelling inside and outside of the mouth
  • bleeding from the mouth that doesn’t stop with constant pressure of at least one hour long
  • severe dental pain not relieved by over the counter pain medicine
  • dental abscess

Another major change to dental practices is that health care professionals—including dentists—can now provide “teledentistry” services to their patients—in fact, I am currently offering this service to my patients.

What is “teledentistry?” This basically refers to remote services performed through a live video connecting the dentist and the patient. This technology allows us to see each other for face-to-face evaluations, virtually, to eliminate in-person office visits. Believe it or not, some dental insurance plans are covering this service, at least during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Examples of video conferencing services include Skype, Apple Face Time, Facebook Messenger video chat, and Zoom. A computer with a webcam, notebook such as an iPad, or a smartphone, is required.

Dental emergencies do seem to happen at the most inopportune times. Please know that in my office, I am following the guidelines set forth by the CDC, ADA and PA DOH. I hope this information is helpful, and I wish everyone the best of health through this pandemic. Be well, Rita A. Tempel DDS

Dr. Rita Tempel is an Accredited Member of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry at Gettysburg Smiles, 2018 York Road, Gettysburg. For more information, see GettysburgSmiles.com, follow Dr. Tempel Gettysburg Smiles on Instagram (@ritatempeldds), Facebook, or call 717-339-0033.

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