‘No social distancing in dentistry’: How care has changed during coronavirus

‘No social distancing in dentistry’: How care has changed during coronavirus

Like many Canadians, Natalie Archer has been adjusting to her new life in the time of coronavirus .

For someone who has spent years sitting side-by-side with patients, whether to clean someone’s teeth or yank them out, new distancing protocols amid the pandemic have been particularly difficult.

“I think dentists, in general, feel helpless and frustrated,” Archer said.

“We are health professionals too. We’re extremely educated. We’re willing to help but, in a lot of ways, our hands are tied right now.”

Provinces and local governments have imposed increasingly tight controls to try and curtail the spread of COVID-19 and ultimately encourage as many people as possible to stay home. Quebec and Ontario , for example, have ordered all non-essential businesses to close, but it’s slightly different in each jurisdiction.

Those deemed essential are somewhat obvious — health-care workers, first responders, suppliers of critical goods like food and medicine, and utility workers.

Where does that leave dentists?

Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia have ordered a pause on “non-essential” dental services like teeth cleaning and cosmetic procedures. Only emergency care, like facial trauma or pain that can’t be managed with antibiotics or over-the-counter medications, can be performed. Dentists in other provinces, like Manitoba, have taken it upon themselves to do the same.

Even then, there are risks.

“We have to set a high bar for emergencies in dentistry because it’s such high risk. We’re one of the most at risk in this,” said Archer.

“We’re still learning about the virus, but we definitely know it’s spread through things like mucus and saliva. These are things that dentists are intimately connected with… There’s no social distancing when it comes to treating patients in dentistry.”
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