Dentists on call to take care of dental emergencies during COVID-19

Anyone needing emergency dental treatment can receive it, even those who have tested positive for COVID-19, but extra precautions will be taken.

"We ask that people contact their dental office and leave a message. Someone will call and ask you a bunch of questions and that's one of them," said Paul Blanchard, executive director of the New Brunswick Dental Society.

Dentist offices across the province closed a week ago after receiving a directive from the New Brunswick Dental Society telling them all non-essential and elective dental services should be suspended immediately. 

In the meantime, Blanchard said, anyone who needs to see a dentist for an emergency can do so, especially if it resulted from recent dental work.

"So if you have swelling in the face or throat that's visible in the mirror or you have prolonged bleeding, and if you have major dental pain that really can't be managed by over-the-counter medications,' Blanchard said. "Those are the types of scenarios that we envision as being essential or truly emergency situations." 

Blanchard said if someone has a confirmed case of COVID-19 needs emergency dental service, the dentist would collaborate with the health-care provider and proceed from there. 

"In those cases, whether it's done in the dental office or whether the patient is seen in an operation room at the hospital, you need to have gowns, you need to have eye protection, you need to have an N95 mask, you need to have a full face shield." 

Blanchard said while they didn't know about this required protective equipment a few weeks ago, all dentists are familiar with it now. 

He said the organization is looking for a source for the N95 masks.

The society is also asking dentists what equipment they have and what they will need. 

"What's your capacity to provide service and what kind of staffing do you need? What needs are you anticipating in your community?" 

Blanchard said once all that is known, the dental society will present a plan to the province.

While dentists are used to dealing with infection control, the unknowns of COVID-19 cause concern, he said.  

"They see patients on a regular basis with influenza, hepatitis, even HIV, so our members have made significant investments in infection control over the years, and it continues to be a high priority." 

With those other conditions, dentists have been concerned about overcrowding in waiting rooms, keeping publicly used areas clean and helping with social distancing.

But now, Blanhard said, they are managing emergencies and dealing with staff layoffs because of the closures. 

"There are some young dentists and some older dentists and they have significant investments, so we're going through the federal programs to see how it can help them." 

Blanchard said his office is receiving calls with questions from dentists on a variety of things. 

"We're taking this one day, one week at a time. We're hopeful this will be a short-term occurrence, but we're also making plans for the long run."